Baby formula shortage is impacting Johnson County — Here are health officials’ tips

According to data analysis firm Datasembly, the nationwide out-of-stock percentage of formula is rising and now stands at 43% nationwide as of the beginning of May. Above, nearly empty shelves at a local Johnson County retailer. Photo credit Nikki Lansford.

A nationwide shortage on baby formula has caused the product to fly off the shelves as parents scramble to get their hands on it.

The numbers: According to data analysis firm Datasembly, the nationwide out-of-stock percentage of formula increased from 31% at the beginning of April to 40% at the end of the month.

The company reports that percentage has since risen and now stands at 43% nationwide as of the beginning of May. Those percentages are even higher in Kansas and Missouri, with some recent out-of-stock percentages in both states near 50%.

For context, during the first 7 months of 2021, the out-of-stock percentages were relatively stable as it fluctuated between 2%-8%.

Local impact: The shortages are having an impact in Johnson County.

One local business, Leawood Nutrition, took to Facebook late last weekend to make a plea for donations to help support families during the shortage, which has been exacerbated by a recall at one of the nation’s largest baby formula manufacturing plants in Michigan.

“Moms are desperately trying to find food for their babies,” Leawood Nutrition owner Alexis Harris wrote. “We are begging for donations of formula.”

In exchange for a free tea, Leawood Nutrition is accepting any up-to-date formula or breast milk that has not been frozen over six months, which is then given to moms in need.

Tips: Below are some tips provided by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on what to do during the baby formula shortage, which federal officials say could still last several more weeks.

What should I do if I begin to run low on formula?

Call your pediatrician if you run low and ask for guidance. They will be able to give you guidance on a safe formula switch or may even have samples to help you for a few days.

What if my local grocery store does not have formula?

Search for formula at multiple stores in your area. Check the customer service desk at the store to see if they are keeping any there.

Also, call a store before making the trip to check their supply or ask when the next supply truck arrives.

How can friends and family help my situation?

Tell friends and family the brand and type of formula you use and ask them to pick it up for you if they see it in a store while shopping.

Should I start trying to breastfeed again, even if I haven’t done it in a while or ever?

It is possible, with some effort, for women to relactate, or start breastfeeding again after a pause.

You may be able to do this even if you did not breastfeed when your baby was born or were not able to for an extended time after birth.

You can contact a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to help if you want to try to relactate.

When should I start weaning my baby off formula?

Babies over 12 months should be weaned off formula. After their first birthday, babies no longer need formula to meet their nutritional needs.

You can wean the baby using water, milk and solid food.

How much formula should I buy?

Don’t hoard formula. Only keep a monthly supply, at the most, to give other caregivers the opportunity to find formula. Hoarding is making the shortage worse, officials say.

Can I make my own formula at home?

Don’t make homemade formula, JCDHE warns.

Without proper regulation, homemade infant formula may lack proper ingredients that are vital to infant growth and can cause life-threatening food-borne illnesses when consumed.

Can I dilute my formula to make it last longer?

Do not water down your baby’s formula to make it last longer, health officials say.

Your baby needs the full formula in order to receive proper nutrition and growth.

What about cow’s milk? Can I use it as a substitute?

JCDHE also urges against giving babies cow’s milk or other milk substitutes to an infant under the age of one.

Before your child is 12 months old, cow’s or goat’s milk may put him or her at risk for intestinal bleeding.

It also has too many proteins and minerals for your baby’s kidneys to handle and does not have the right amount of nutrients for your baby.

What other resources can I refer to during this formula shortage?

For babies over 6 months old, here is a guide: Food to grow on: Birth to 12 months. This resource provides a guide to the nutritional intake needed by babies during their first year of life.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also shares additional infant formula safety tips, which can be found here.