Baby formula shortages 'are leaving a lot of parents in a bind': Motherly Health + Wellness editor

Motherly Health + Wellness Senior Editor Jessica D'Argenio sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to examine the distress hitting families amid baby formula shortages and recalls.

Video Transcript

- As shortages of baby formula persist across the country, Abbott Laboratories, a major manufacturer of baby food, has said it could take up to 10 weeks for more formula to reach shelves after production resumes following a recent recall. For more on the impact of these supply chain disruptions, we have Jessica D'Argenio Waller, Motherly Health and Wellness Senior Editor with us now. Jessica, thanks so much for being with us this afternoon.

As much as 43% of normal formula supplies were out of stock in US grocery stores last week, according to data from Data Assembly. That was after 31% out of stocks were seen in April. What has the impact of this been for families to date?

JESSICA D'ARGENIO WALLER: You know, I think it's really stressful. I think it causes a lot of anxiety when you can't find the food you need to feed your baby. Parents are dealing with this nationwide. It's everywhere. It's not limited to just states, but to certain states. But we ran a poll on our Instagram and found that 38% of our respondents said that the formula shortage has impacted them in some way.

- So tell us a little bit more about what parents have been doing during these shortages or what they should be doing, while we're waiting. Is it recommended that they make their own formula, that they turn to different brands? What options are out there at this point?

JESSICA D'ARGENIO WALLER: Sure, yes, it's definitely recommended to switch to any brand you can find, at this time, as long as it's tolerated by your infant. But the issue with that is that, if you haven't tried a formula before, you don't know if it's going to be well tolerated by your baby. So I would reach out to your pediatrician first thing, and see what they have in stock, and see what they can recommend for you. But no, it's not recommended to DIY your own formula. That can bring on risks of improper nutrient imbalance or contamination.

- And in terms of the response that we're now seeing out of Washington, this afternoon, President Joe Biden met with retailers and infant formula manufacturers about these shortages, and the White House was just out with a statement calling on the FTC and state attorneys general to crack down on price gouging of infant formula. Do you think this is going to go far enough, and how widespread has gouging been at this point?

JESSICA D'ARGENIO WALLER: I think it's been pretty widespread. We've heard from moms who have said that they've had to really reassess their budget and make some cuts elsewhere, so that they can afford formula for their infants. They've also had to drive 45 minutes to an hour and cross state lines to check multiple stores. So gas prices are really playing into this crunch as well. The thing is people just need more access to formula, so whatever the government can do to help formula get into the hands of parents is great.

- So when we think about the longer term potential impact of this, do you think the situation that we're in now is going to result in, down the line, fewer restrictions on imported formula? Because this has really shown some of the vulnerabilities of having such a domestically oriented supply chain here for infant formula.

JESSICA D'ARGENIO WALLER: Yeah, we've heard reports from people from our audience that mothers and parents are sharing links to buy European formula for overseas, but the issue with that is that it's not regulated by the FDA. So you worry about shipping and storage considerations, label issues, and other things. You don't necessarily know what you're getting and where it's coming from.

- And I'm wondering, as well, are there certain groups, or are there certain states who you've been seeing be more impacted by these shortages than others? Or is this truly something that is across the board at this point?

JESSICA D'ARGENIO WALLER: We've heard from mothers across the board. I think it's everywhere. I think certain states are more impacted by others, and in some places, it can be 50% shortage rates. And others, it may be just that 40%, but still, that's a huge number impacting parents everywhere. And, you know, CDC data shows that one in four parents breastfeed exclusively up to six months, and then babies aren't really supposed to have any type of cow's milk, until they're 12 months. So that leaves a lot of parents in a bind.

- What do you think the next eight to 10 weeks is going to look like for parents as they wait for Abbott Laboratories, one of the major manufacturers of baby food, to actually get their product back on the shelves?

JESSICA D'ARGENIO WALLER: I think it's going to be still really stressful. Parents are already finding empty store shelves when they go. They're already calling friends and family to look for them in other states and ship it across state lines.

I hope that parents can reach out to their pediatricians and get access. I know for specialized formulas, you can get a note from your doctor to get the specific formula that your baby might need. But yeah, it's just going to be trying to reach out to see if you can get donated breast milk from friends. Some parents are trying relactation, which is where you restart breastfeeding after your child has already been weaned, but it's not an option for everyone. And it's really challenging to do.

- All right, we'll leave it there for now. Jessica D'Argenio Waller, Motherly Health and Wellness Senior Editor, thank you so much.