As the baby formula shortage continues, parents are scrambling as stores either run out or limit baby formula. I’m one of these parents and I’m scared, especially as I’m expecting with my third child due in less than a week. Out of the many late-pregnancy fears and worries, I’d never imagine that the one thing I would be most stressed about is what happens if I can’t produce breast milk, and what to do if my baby needs specialized formula. This is the first pregnancy where I am feeling this sense of panic and dread and it has everything to do with the fact that corporations and the GOP are putting profits over our children.
For the first week of May, the nationwide out-of-stock percentage for baby formula rose to 43%, and that’s up from 30% at the start of April, according to Datasembly, which tracks product data for retailers. A massive safety recall by manufacturer Abbott has created widespread shortages after concerns rose about a bacterial contamination at Abbott’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility when four infants fell ill and two died.
Even before this emergency – the cost of baby formula made it inaccessible for too many families, adding up to between $130 and $428 per month. Because just four companies control 89% of the baby formula market, they are able to ratchet up prices. And as we saw with Abbott, when just one of those companies has to stop production, millions of parents are affected.
Parents across the nation are desperate as supply disruptions continue. It is being reported that there are some parents either watering down the formula or trying to create their own homemade formula, which can be dangerous. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reports that for example, some babies fed homemade formula have been hospitalized because they are not getting enough calcium.
As a parent of a toddler and soon also a newborn, this is such a concern and honestly frightening to me. Like many mothers, I always felt like I could rely on baby formula manufacturers to support me and make my baby’s well-being a priority. That sense of security and peace of mind has been shaken, I no longer feel the same amount of trust that I did before with infant formulas.
It’s also disheartening to see that some of our lawmakers don’t seem to be concerned about the safety or basic survival needs of our country’s babies. The Democratic-led House passed two pieces of legislation that addressed this crisis. Nine Republicans voted against a measure aimed at making it easier for low-income families to get formula, while nearly 200 Republicans lawmakers opposed a bill that supports increased FDA staffing to boost inspections of baby formula supplies and help prevent fraudulent products from making it onto store shelves. Of course, many of those same lawmakers also oppose other programs and initiatives that would provide a stronger safety net for struggling families – like the expanded child tax credit, which should be made permanent.
These companies spend millions on lobbying each year and Republicans choose these dollars over the people they represent.
My middle child just turned a year old, and I couldn’t be more thankful that she no longer needs formula. But I remember noticing as far back as five months ago that baby formula wasn’t fully stocked in the shelves and they were placing a limit on how many I could purchase. When this happened, I became concerned but hoped that this was somehow temporary. But the baby formula shortage has worsened since then.
The Biden administration has invoked the Defense Protection Act in an effort to speed up production of baby formula. I was also glad to see that Abbott is being forced to overhaul its safety and inspection procedures before it can resume production.
Expectant mothers like myself don’t need additional worries and stress to be placed on us. Instead of just focusing on having a healthy delivery, I now must have a plan in place in the event that my newborn would need formula. My husband and I are visiting local retailers to see which ones are readily available. As a parent, I never thought that in the U.S. we would ever come across a crisis like this, in which there is limited access to what is usually considered a basic necessity for some infants. We have to keep demanding that legislators put our families first.