Watch CBS News

Parents desperate, searching for options amid persistent nationwide baby formula shortage

Parents desperate amid persistent nationwide baby formula shortage
Parents desperate amid persistent nationwide baby formula shortage 02:52

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Parents are struggling to keep up with the nationwide shortage of baby formula – with several retailers now limiting how much you can buy.

So what do you do if you can't find any? CBS 2's Marissa Perlman got some answers Monday, as well as a warning from pediatricians.

Walgreens and CVS are just two retailers that are putting limits on how much formula you can buy – in hopes of cutting into the supply issue.

But some parents say there is none in stock, and they're being forced to get creative to feed their babies. And indeed, the shelves were empty in the formula aisle at a Walgreens in the West Loop, and at a Target and a nearby Jewel-Osco in Schaumburg.

This is all because nearly 40 percent of all brands are out of stock.

In Glen Ellyn, Piper O'Keeffe is smiling at 11 months. But her mom, Courtney, is worried.

For the first time, they have been forced to cut Piper's formula with cow's milk – which hasn't gone smoothly.

"Now she's drinking half formula, half cow's milk," Courtney O'Keeffe said.

Pediatricians advise against drinking cow's milk before age 1. But O'Keeffe says she has no choice for her daughter – showing us her last six bottles of formula.

Several major retailer, including Walgreens and CVS, are now limiting customers to three baby formulas per transaction.

At Pete's Grocery in Glen Ellyn, staff say they are keeping formula behind lock and key – worried about people stealing such an in-demand product.

Supply chain challenges, inflation, and recalls are all preventing formula from hitting store shelves.

Dr. Joshua Wechsler with Lurie Children's Hospital says a number of his patients have lost weight, and others have had to be hospitalized, because they are so dependent on formula.

So what should parents do if their babies are in such a condition and they can't find any formula?

"There is not great answers on how to get around a formula shortage. I mean, you know, we ideally need people not to be stockpiling – but at the end of the day, people have to have enough of a supply for their children; for their baby," said Dr. Wechsler, also the medical director for the Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Diseases Program at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Families have been turning to so-called "mom brigades" online to help find options. There are online communities of moms willing to ship formula to those in need.

"It's sad, because a lot of people just don't have an option at all and need formula," O'Keeffe said.

Doctors say the best advice is to call your pediatrician first for alternatives. Your pediatrician will also have the best specific advice for your specific child, because each kid has a different need.

Doctors advise you should not resort to cutting formula with water or trying to make your own formula at home – which can be dangerous.

For purchasing formula, you can turn to online resources like eBay – where you'll see major price hikes. But that option, of course, is not feasible for everyone.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.