As a baby formula shortage continues to worsen across the country, retailers in some states, including Illinois, are restricting how much customers can purchase in a single sale.
Analysis from Datasembly, a retail data firm, found that 31% of baby formula products were out of stock nationwide in early April, with seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington — seeing out-of-stock rates at over 40%.
The shortage was prompted in part by the shutdown of a major formula production facility owned by Chicago-based Abbott Labs in Sturgis, Michigan. The shutdown, in turn, was the result of a federal investigation into reports of contaminated Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products there that may have contributed to the deaths of infants.
Abbott, one of the country’s largest infant formula makers, said in a blog post published April 15 that it was working to increase production at its other facilities. And other manufacturers say production is at full capacity, but they are unable to keep up with current demand.
“Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” Datasembly founder and CEO Ben Reich said in a news release. "We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions."
So how much formula can you buy at one time? It depends on the retailer. Here's what to know.
How Much Baby Formula Can You Buy at Walgreens?
In a statement to NBC News, Deerfield-based Walgreens said customers will be limited to 3 baby formula products per purchase both in store and online.
"Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country," Walgreens said in a statement.
"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."
How Much Baby Formula Can You Buy at CVS?
CVS is taking the same course as Walgreens, allowing customers to have only 3 baby formula products per purchase in-person and online.
How Much Baby Formula Can You Buy at Target?
The New York Times reports that Target is also imposing purchase limitations on baby formulas, but only for online sales. Online, you are limited to 4 products per purchase.
In store, there are no limits.
What Should Parents Do?
For parents desperate to secure a regular supply of baby formula for their children, and are having difficulty obtaining a single can, the Infant Nutrition Council of America advises that they contact their local food pantries, churches, shelters and hospital emergency rooms as they may provide small amounts of infant formula in emergency situations.
Here's what else experts recommend, and what to steer clear of:
- Do not try to mix formula at home. The FDA warns parents against online recipes for baby formula, citing the possibility of “very serious health concerns” for the baby.
- Do not try to "water down" formula. Dr. Katie Lockwood, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told "TODAY" that baby formula is complex mix of "water and nutrients," and "having too much extra water can be very dangerous to some children’s brains — and having too little water can be dangerous."
- If you're running low or have concerns, call your pediatrician's office. They often have samples you can use, or can share other resources that may help.