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If you care for an infant, you’ve probably been feeling the crunch of the baby formula shortage.
The baby formula recall has been happening since February 2022, and ever since then, getting these products has been difficult.
Abbott Laboratories, the plant responsible for 20% of all baby formula production, closed down early June, shut down again two weeks later because of thunderstorms, then reopened July 1.
Abbott says they’re starting to ship their specialty EleCare brand in the next few weeks and Similac as soon as they can, but the baby formula shortage isn’t getting any better. On top of that, Abbott initiated another voluntarily recall of some of their formulas on Oct. 14, 2022, due to possible spoilage.
Despite government efforts to fly formula to the US from other countries in recent months, the product shortage is getting worse. Baby formula hoarding, supply chain issues, production plant shutdowns, and recalls are contributing to the issue.
As of September 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that a third of households with a baby under 1 had trouble finding formula, and more than 40% said they only had a one week supply left.
What’s a parent to do? We’ll tell you.
1. Check stores ahead of time to see what’s in stock.
Store managers should know when their next baby formula shipment arrives. With gas prices so high, driving around aimlessly can cost a lot. Do your homework before you head out by calling nearby stores to see what’s available.
Or if you’re shopping at Target or Walmart, use Brickseek to check those stores’ local inventory.
Keep in mind, some stores are now limiting the number of baby formula products you can purchase in one shopping trip.
2. Check if you have any formula in the Similac recall.
Abbott Laboratories just got back up and running in July after a near month-long shutdown, and now they’re already recalling some baby formula. Abbott Laboratories recalled certain lots of their Ready-to-Feed liquid formula after discovering the tops weren’t sealed all the way. This could lead to spoiled formula, and if consumed could cause gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea.
The following brands of Similac and Pedialyte are in the recall:
- Similac Pro-Total Comfort
- Similac 360 Total Care
- Similac 360 Total Care Sensitive
- Similac Special Care 24
- Similac Stage 1
- Similac NeoSure
- Similac Water (Sterilized)
- Pedialyte Electrolyte Solution
For a full list of recalled products and Lot Codes, check the official Similac Recall website. If you have any, do not give it to a child. Throw it out, or return it to the store you bought it from for a refund.
The recall definitely didn’t help the worsening shortage. However, Abbott Laboratories’ CEO announced on October 19 that the company is in the final planning stages of building a new $500 million facility. There’s no word on when it will open, but he said they’re “determining the site location” and working with experts to figure out the new tech that the facility will have.
3. Call your pediatrician for the samples they have on hand.
If you’re struggling to find the formula your baby needs, ask your pediatrician for help. They usually keep baby formula samples in the office and can contact their sales rep for more if needed. If your baby has allergies, sensitivities, or digestive issues, be sure to check with your pediatrician before trying a new baby formula brand.
4. Contact baby formula manufacturers for free samples and coupons.
Manufacturers are often happy to send free samples and coupons — so it’s always worth the ask. Contact your go-to baby formula manufacturer and ask if they’ll send any freebies your way.
We contacted lots of manufacturers and found plenty of baby freebies and baby coupons, including Enfamil and Similac samples and coupons. You’ll want to read all about them.
5. Buy a pregnancy test at Walgreens, and you could get free baby formula.
If you buy a pregnancy test at Walgreens and use your myWalgreens rewards card, you could get free Enfamil formula in the mail. On July 16, a woman tweeted she bought a pregnancy test, and a week later, she had a pack of Enfamil formula in the mail.
She explained she didn’t need the formula because she had “no fallopian tubes” and questioned why Enfamil was sending out formula to people who may not need it during a shortage. She speculated Enfamil got her address from her myWalgreens rewards account, which she used to purchase the pregnancy test.
So, if you’re feeling lucky, you can buy the cheapest pregnancy test to see if you’ll get a sample, but it’s not guaranteed.
6. Shop online for more baby formula options.
Buying baby formula online is the easiest way to find what you need — and thinking outside the box is a big help. Look at online drugstores and baby specialty stores in addition to your typical big-box retailers. Not only will you be able to find baby formula, but you’ll be able to actually find the best available price. Check these retailers:
We have a lot more to say about where get to baby formula on the cheap.
7. Sign up for baby formula rewards.
Some baby formula brands have their own rewards programs that send you free samples and discounts on their products. Signing up for these programs can help you get formula samples in times of need (or at least save you a few bucks on your next purchase).
- Enfamil Family Beginnings: Get free baby formula samples, rewards on Enfamil purchases, discounts, and other baby freebies. You can sign up for Enfamil Family Beginnings right here.
- Similac Rewards: Get exclusive savings on baby formula, free samples, instant discount codes, nutrition guides, and a free Shutterfly photo book. You can sign up for Similac Rewards right here.
- Earth’s Best Family: Sign up for their newsletter to instantly receive three coupons valid on Earth’s Best products. You can sign up for Earth’s Best Family here.
- MyGerber: Get $10 off every fifth qualifying purchase on Gerber.com and other perks. Sign up for MyGerber here.
8. Use formula coupons.
When you find the formula your baby needs, try not to pay full price. We update our coupon database on a daily basis so you can have access to the best and most recent formula coupons.
9. Don’t be desperate and give your baby one of these alternatives.
Hoarding baby formula is no bueno in the midst of a shortage, but so are these ways parents could cut corners to save money:
Babies and toddlers have different nutritional needs, so toddler formula doesn’t have the same nutrients as baby formula. Plus, your baby’s digestive system is still developing and may not be as strong as your toddler’s.
Cow’s milk, goat milk, and nondairy milks like almond milk are big no-nos for babies under six months. Babies don’t have enzymes to break down these liquids and are otherwise unable to digest them.
Diluted Baby Formula
Too much water in your baby’s formula reduces their nutrient intake per feeding. Even worse, it can lead to water intoxication, which can be fatal for babies in worst-case scenarios.
DIY Baby Formula
Homemade formulas are just as dangerous for babies as diluted baby formula and can cause malnutrition. Plus, they can include certain “ingredients” that your baby’s tiny kidneys won’t be able to process.