The US has recently been experiencing an unprecedented baby formula shortage, and parents everywhere are facing a living nightmare as they struggle to find formula to feed their children. The shortage of this essential product is a result of a complicated perfect storm for which no one seems to have a clear solution — and New Jersey has been one of the states that was hit the hardest. We know how terrifying this must be for so many New Jersey parents, so we’ve covered the causes behind this formula shortage as well as gathered some resources for worried parents. Read on to learn what caused the formula shortage, how long it’s expected to last, and what you can do as a parent to find help locally in New Jersey.
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The Causes of the Formula Shortage: A Perfect Storm
There is no sole cause of the formula shortage; rather, the issue is a result of a confluence of problems.
In April of this year, New Jersey’s out-of-stock rates for formula were among the highest of any state nationally. This was eerily reminiscent of the 2020 shortages, where the pandemic rendered products such as toilet paper and Clorox wipes nearly impossible to find.
Unsurprisingly, the current formula shortage is also linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the multiple causes. It’s the same pandemic supply and demand problem that’s impacted many other products.
The 2020 Covid shopping panic caused many parents to buy formula in bulk, increasing demand drastically. As things settled in 2021 — and due to many parents having more than enough formula at home after the 2020 hoarding — demand dropped. Come 2022, with a surge of births and more parents choosing to use formula rather than breastfeed, demand once again increased — and supply wasn’t able to keep up, according to The Atlantic.
In isolation, this problem wouldn’t cause the emergency we’re seeing. It was unfortunately exacerbated by a major recall back in February. Abbott Nutrition, the food sector arm of Abbott Laboratories, closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan on February 17th after there were reports of four infants becoming sick from bacterial infection and two dying after drinking formula produced by the plant, according to Fortune. This plant was only one of a few in the states that produce formula. Upon inspecting further, the FDA found more problems with the facility and the plant has been unable to reopen since.
One recall shouldn’t send an entire market into turmoil — but with Abbott Laboratories controlling 43% of the market and only two other companies in the formula game, the monopolized structure of the domestic formula market was tipped on its head with just this one recall. New manufacturers aren’t inclined to get in the game due to the fact that supply is dependent on birthrate, which has overall been decreasing, and the field itself just isn’t that profitable.
Another layer to the issue is that the FDA has previously imposed strict laws to regulate importing formula from overseas. This was a decision made with the intention to ensure that formula is safe for infants in our country, but the result has been that local parents now rely almost exclusively on domestic brands. It’s even illegal to buy many foreign formulas in the US — though there has been talk of easing some of these restrictions in light of the current shortage.
Though the closed Sturgis plant may open in the next two weeks, the formula shortage may last until the end of 2022.
Many are asking why mothers can’t just breastfeed their babies during this shortage. While this is a solution for some, there are many reasons why breastfeeding can’t take the place of formula for so many parents — ranging from working mothers not having the time for the physical demands, to women’s bodies no longer producing enough milk, to latching problems, to allergies, to adoptive parents who can’t breastfeed, to so many more.
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(Photo credits: @abcnews)
Local Resources for Parents
During such a scary and uncertain time, there are some local options for New Jersey parents in search of both support and help locating different kinds of formula.
One route that has proven effective is Facebook Groups. Mom Squad New Jersey is one Facebook page where moms and parents can connect with others parents to help find formula resources. Formula Finder New Jersey is another great option. Buy, Sell, Trade Baby Formula in NJ is an older Facebook page that has become more useful and relevant than ever.
You can also try locating your nearest Community Action Agency, which may be able to help connect you with stores currently selling formula.
Some have found success by contacting manufacturing hotlines directly — though waits may be long. Here are the three contacts to try:
- MyGerber Baby Expert
- Abbott’s Consumer Hotline: 1-800-986-8540
- Reckitt’s Customer Service line: 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)
Experts are also recommending that those who can should speak to their child’s pediatrician, who may be able to help submit emergency request forms to procure formula.
Governor Murphy’s Executive Order
On May 17th, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency to address the national baby formula shortage in order to activate State price gouging laws, consistent with President Biden’s actions at the federal level. The order also helps to coordinate relief efforts and enable State agencies to take any emergency measures necessary to protect families from issues arising from the baby formula shortage.
Today, I’m signing an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency to address the national baby formula shortage.⁰⁰We will do everything in our power to ensure New Jersey families have access to the formula they need. Learn more: https://t.co/5UPnyasUei
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) May 17, 2022
Within the executive order, Governor Murphy also included resources for parents, including WIC Information, Maternal Health Consortias, and information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guidance. More information and the complete executive order can be found here.
If you or other parents have found success via other methods, please reach out to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Montclair Girl will continue to update this page with more resources as we find them.