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US faces a shortage of baby formula; find out what it is and why, when it is given


The US has been facing a shortage of baby formula and it has vexed parents. According to a CNN report, it has been months now that stores in the country are struggling to put the product on the shelves.

While manufacturers claim they are trying to produce at full capacity, it is still not enough to meet the current demand, the report states.

Quoting data from Datasembly, the CNN report explained that the out-of-stock rate for baby formula was somewhere between 2 per cent and 8 per cent in the first half of 2021, but then went up sharply in July 2021. Then, between November 2021 and early April 2022, the out-of-stock rate jumped to 31 per cent.

Additionally, in six states in the US namely Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Missouri, more than half of the baby formula available in stores was sold out during April 2022.

Now, fearing stockpiling — same as with toilet paper — several big retail chains like Walgreens and CVS have started to restrict sales. According to a Guardian report, in February this year, Abbott Nutrition had recalled three of its products after reports emerged of illness among infants, with news about two deaths. This, experts say, may have led to a strain in the supply chain.

What is baby formula and why is it needed?

According to Dr Krishan Chugh, principal director and HOD-paediatrics at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, baby formula is a substitute to mother’s milk, given to babies when the mother cannot feed them. “These are cow milk formulae, modified in a way that they are similar to [human] breast milk in terms of composition,” he told indianexpress.com.

The doctor added that when the baby is hungry, boiled water is added to the baby formula powder in prescribed proportions and fed. He cautioned that bottle-feeds can lead to infections, so using a bowl is safer, adding that while breast milk is recommended, baby formula is given when the mother is too sick to feed.

Dr Chugh said that babies should be fed as per their needs, that is whenever they are hungry. “Babies can be given formula from the day of birth itself, or when the mother becomes too ill to feed. In the first two months of life, babies need only breast milk or such substitutes.”

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