If you take a stroll down the baby food aisle, you'll notice that the shelves are surprisingly bare.

Back in February, Abbott Nutrition voluntarily recalled their Similac, Alimentum and EleCare brand formulas after four infant hospitalizations and one death. This has since led to a nationwide shortage of this vital baby product.

Why does it seem to be getting worse? What are your options? Where can you find formula in town? We break down what you need to know.

Not Enough Supply for the Demand

What you may not realize is that by losing Abbott Nutrition brand formulas, a large portion of the nation's supply of baby formula disappeared. This puts more pressure on the remaining three companies that produce the majority of infant formulas in the nation: Mead Johnson (the makers of Enfamil), Perrigo Company PLC (the company that makes all store-brand infant formulas), and Nestle SA (the makers of Gerber formulas).

Just like with the shortages of Clorox wipes, Fritos and car parts, the supply of the product cannot match the demand. Unfortunately, hoarding is also becoming an issue as desperate parents try to ensure that their children can stay fed. This is causing stores like Market Street and Costco to limit the number of canisters that you can purchase at one time.

Infant Formula Purchase Limits
Photo: Heidi Kaye, Townsquare Media

Switching Is Easier Said Than Done

If you've ever fed your child formula, you know that the switch from one product to another can be quite jarring. Diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux and other stomach issues can all arise when a new product is introduced to an infant's diet. This puts a lot of stress on parents, especially those who depend on certain formulas due to sensitivities and allergies.

Worst of all, breastmilk and formula are the only options for feeding your infant. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that while it's safe to introduce your children to solids between 4 to 6 months of age, it's imperative that solid food is not their main type of nutrition. Any child under the age of one should be fed with breastmilk or formula as their main food source.

So what's a parent to do?

Resources in Lubbock

First and foremost, if you did use Abbott brand formulas, look at the ingredients list. This can help you to identify a new brand that is similar, therefore limiting issues that could occur during the transition to a new product. Secondly, once you find a formula that works well, try to stick with it. However, due to the shortage, if you have to switch to another brand make sure to find comparable products as directed above.

When it comes to finding what you need, it's always best to call ahead. This can save you the headache of driving around town trying to find it. As of today (April 20th), some of the Walmart stores and the Target on Marsha Sharp had a solid supply of Enfamil products. Walmart also had Gerber and Parent's Choice on their shelves. Costco is only carrying their Kirkland Signature brand in store at this time, but it is in stock. Finally, Walgreens and Market Street had a very limited supply of all products.

Walmart Baby Formula Selection
Photo: Heidi Kaye, Townsquare Media

Another option is to buy your baby formula online and have it shipped to your home. Both Costco and Sam's Club have an array of options on their digital platforms. However, be careful on other sites, like Amazon, where certain sellers are hiking up the price for profit.

Finally, for those who have babies with medical conditions but don't have the ability to breastfeed, Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas can be a possible resource. Just call their facility in Fort Worth and ask to go through a screening to see if your child qualifies for their services. If they do, this non-profit screens donated breastmilk to give to hospital NICUs and children in need in our area. Their number is: (817) - 810 - 0071.

Final Thoughts

Most importantly, do not dilute your formula to make sure that you have a continued supply. Your child needs a recommended amount of nutrients each day. Limiting their intake could cause developmental delays and even water intoxication.

While this is an extremely stressful situation for parents and expectant moms, the supply will improve slowly over time. Until then, try to breathe and stay vigilant about staying stocked without hoarding supply from other parents.

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