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The worst baby formula shortage in history continues to make headlines as parents worried about safety struggle to find formula for their infants.

Enfamil and Similac, the two largest baby formula manufacturers, are currently facing lawsuits from families whose premature infants were injured or died from being fed baby formula and then developing a dangerous intestinal disease called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Last month, the out-of-stock rate of baby formula hit a whopping 44 percent, up from 20 percent in November 2021 and as low as 2 percent in the first half of 2021. If your baby has allergies, you should know that pediatricians are working directly with manufacturers to help get specialty formula for patients so call your pediatrician before calling the manufacturer.

We asked Lauren Scardella, a New Jersey attorney and partner with NJ Lady Lawyers, what parents in search of baby formula should know. “One of the dangers of a baby formula shortage is that parents, out of necessity, might be tempted to stretch their supply when they’re running low,” Scardella said. “Don’t do this. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use and don’t do things such as dilute your baby formula with a lot of extra water. There is a health risk to your child if you don’t follow the manufacturer’s directions, no matter how tempting this might be if you live in an area with an extreme shortage.”

Also, see what your baby is drinking and don’t make extra so it doesn’t go to waste. For example, if a baby is only drinking a 6-ounce bottle at a time, parents or caregivers shouldn’t make an 8-ounce bottle. Talk with your pediatrician about how much formula your child needs and when it is safe to incorporate solid foods into their diet.

Here’s what else Scardella had to say about the shortage:

New Jersey Family: What is causing the baby formula shortage?

LS: Broadly speaking, the baby formula shortage is being caused by a confluence of factors such as pandemic-related supply chain issues, inflation, and the recall of several brands of formula due to a bacteria being found in them that made some babies sick with a rare infection. Add to that the fact that some stores are now limiting the amount of formula customers can buy and the FDA limits on European imports of formula, and you’ve got a perfect storm for a crisis.

NJF: Is the recall of Enfamil, Similac, and Abbott Nutrition affecting the formula supply?

LS: Absolutely. Supply was already strained before the formula recalls and with production shut down at Abbott since February, it’s only exacerbating the problem. Abbott recently said they won’t be able to get formula back on store shelves until July, so this problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

NJF: How is the formula shortage having a harder impact on families that rely on SNAP and WIC benefits?

LS: Families who receive SNAP and WIC benefits are limited by what brands of formula they can purchase with those benefits, so when the supply of those brands is already short, it’s going to have a much bigger impact on parents who can’t afford to buy other brands on their own and aren’t allowed to use their benefits for them.

NJF: What advice do you have for parents who don’t have enough formula and can’t find any. What should they do? 

LS: Unfortunately, right now there isn’t a good answer for what to do if you can’t find enough formula. One thing that parents absolutely should not do is try to stretch their existing supply of formula by watering it down or using it in any way but the way that the manufacturer recommends. President Biden is set to speak on the issue soon and we can only hope that he can provide some answers and solutions that will help struggling families deal with this crisis.