What Texas parents should do if they can’t find baby formula


Was your infant’s formula among the recently recalled products? Here’s how to check, next steps.

Was your infant’s formula among the recently recalled products? Here’s how to check, next steps.

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Parents across the country, including in North Texas, are struggling to find baby formula on store shelves.

And major retailers are now instituting limits on how much baby formula you can buy due to the product’s ongoing shortage.

“When they’re not able to find the formula brand or the kind that they particularly need for their child, they get desperate,” said Robert Dudley, program and warehouse manager at Hope Supply Co. “And they’re searching multiple different stores.”

Here’s what North Texas parents need to know about the baby formula shortage.

Why is there a baby formula shortage?

Supply chain issues have been exacerbated by Abbott Laboratories recalling popular powdered formula brands Similac, Similac PM 60/40, Alimentum, Elecare and EleCare Jr. The recall was initiated when four consumers said the formulas gave their babies bacterial infections, and then escalated after an infant died consuming the formula.

How can I tell if a formula has been recalled?

“Recalled products can be identified by the 7 to 9 digit code and expiration date on the bottom of the package,” according to the FDA.

Products are included in the recall if they have all three items below:

  • the first two digits of the code are 22 through 37 and
  • the code on the container contains K8, SH, or Z2, and
  • the expiration date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later.

Enter your baby formula’s number, located at the bottom of the container, on https://www.similacrecall.com/us/en/product-lookup.html to see if it’s part of the recall. If recalled, do not use it and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get a replacement. You can exchange those cans for a refund at the store where you purchased them, or call the manufacturer at 1-800-986-8540.

A list of alternate baby formula products that can act as substitutes for those recalled by Abbott Nutrition.

If formula was not included in the recall, families can still use it. Many stores are getting new supply of Similac products that were not affected by the recall.

What stores are rationing baby formula?

Walmart, Kroger, CVS, Target and Walgreens have placed purchasing limits on how much baby formula you can buy. Walmart limited purchases to five containers, while CVS and Walgreens limited customers to three formula products at a time.

Here’s what retailers told the Star-Telegram:

  • CVS — “Following supplier challenges and increased customer demand, we’ve added a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in our stores and online,” spokesperson Matt Blanchette said. “We’re continuing to work with our baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience this causes our customers.”
  • Walgreens — “Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country. Similar to other retailers, we put into effect purchase limits of three per transaction on all infant and toddler formula to help improve inventory. We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.”
  • Target — “We continue to closely monitor the industry-wide supply constraints of baby formula to help ensure product is available for our guests. We currently have some online product limitations in place.”

Can I buy baby formula online?

Several brands of baby formula are available for delivery online at stores including Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger. Amazon also sells a variety of brands, but be careful of price-gouging and fraudulent products; buy directly from the brand instead.

How are North Texans dealing with the shortage?

Dallas nonprofit Hope Supply Co. meets the needs of homeless and at-risk children across North Texas by providing necessities including diapers, wipes, hygiene kits, baby food and formula, clothing, school supplies and toys.

Dudley says the organization has been hit hard by the shortage in baby formula products since the recalls and they’re seeing an increased demand. The partner organizations that Hope supplies formula to, as well as organizations they don’t usually partner with, have been asking for more formula. Parents have also been reaching out saying they can’t find formula they need and seeing if they can get cans.

“Those are people that normally would be able to provide for themselves, but just can’t find the formula,” Dudley said.

Hope did have a little bit of trouble getting the products they needed at first, but now have a steady source of formula thanks to the Women, Infants, and Children Program of Dallas and Baylor Scott & White’s Faith In Action. Those organizations give extra cans that patients haven’t used to Hope, after checking the cans to make sure they’re not recalled.

The organization used to mainly carry Similac formula, but now they mainly distribute Enfamil. Because a lot of parents prefer the former, the organization has been telling them that Enfamil is just as good with equivalent benefits.

What should I do if I can’t find the baby formula I need?

If the baby formula you need isn’t in-stock online, here’s what Dudley says you should do:

  • Reach out to your local WIC office: WIC offices keep a steady source of formula on-hand, so you can ask for a can or two. They usually have extra that they give out before it expires. Texas WIC is working closely with WIC grocers to help make sure there are options for WIC families to purchase, a spokesperson said. They’ve temporarily added alternative options, available through the end of May, so families can find a formula at the store to meet their baby’s needs without updating their WIC card. If WIC clients cannot find the brands or sizes of formula currently written on their card, they can contact their local WIC office to update their card to a different can size or type of formula.

  • Reach out to your local nonprofits: While Hope itself doesn’t usually supply formula directly to parents, you can reach out to other nonprofits in your area. If they don’t have it, they might be able to reach out to another source like Hope to get it for you.

  • Try breastfeeding if you’re able to: Hope strongly suggests attempting to breastfeed if a parent is capable of doing so.

  • Don’t dilute formula: Don’t water down baby formula or underfeed your baby, as they won’t be able to get the nutrients they need, which can cause health problems. Also, don’t make homemade formula or give your baby cow’s milk, goat’s milk or other milk alternatives. Instead, breastfeed temporarily or try out an alternative formula.

When will the baby formula shortage end?

“This is just a temporary situation,” Dudley said. “Right now it’s an issue, but probably here in three to six months, it might not be an issue anymore.”

This story was originally published April 22, 2022 5:00 AM.

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Dalia Faheid is a reporter on the Star-Telegram’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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