These photos and videos of empty baby formula shelves illustrate how bad the crisis really is

·Writer, Reporter and Producer
·5-min read

Parents are taking to social media to vent their frustration and share images of just how dire the baby formula shortage has become.

The shortage — induced by pandemic-related supply chain issues and exacerbated by a recent recall by major formula manufacturer Abbott Nutrition — has left parents scrambling to feed their children. As of the first week of May, 43 percent of the nation's formula supply was out of stock, according to retail data firm Datasembly, and FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said on May 26 that it will be two months before the formula supply returns to normal and "shelves are replete again.”

Allie Seckel, who goes by The Formula Fairy on social media, asked her followers to send photos of what the formula situation looked like in their area. The photos @theformulafairy shared on TikTok show rows of empty shelves.

"Parents are literally driving across states to get formula or desperately bidding on eBay for the specialty formula they need," Seckel wrote.

Babies' sensitive stomachs often have difficulty adjusting to a new formula, but many desperate parents are forced to switch if their usual formula type isn't available.

"Parents are dealing with frequent formula changes and & the tummy upset that often comes with it & in some cases having no choice but to feed a formula they know they can't tolerate. Because the alternative is not eating at all," Seckel added.

Twitter user @vlovest98 says they've resorted to mixing their baby's usual formula with a different brand.

"It's been this way for 3 days now. they did have 6 cans of Gerber good start for milk allergy. I grabbed one to slowly mix with the little guys other formula so it's not a shock to the system," @vlovest98 writes.

Even celebrities are taking to social media to discuss their struggles during the formula shortage. Country music singer Sean Williams posted on TikTok about how tough it has been to find the specialty formula his son relies on.

"I'm going to try hard not to cry during this. But as a father, I don't know what to do. My wife and I literally drove from one end of our county to the other and searched every store and couldn't find anything," Williams says. "My son has Hirschsprung's disease, so he can only have a certain type of formula, which is surprisingly the formula that's just gone. Period."

Instagram user @kittenenigma posted photos of store after store of bare shelves as they tried to hunt down the right type of formula.

"Just some of the pics of stores I went to searching for Eli’s type," @kittenenigma writes.

One store was keeping formula with the cashier instead of on store shelves.

"Please see cashier. We may have this item in stock," one sign reads. "Don't see what you need? We saved more for you at checkout," says another.

Even when parents are able to find the formula they need, many stores are limiting how much they can buy.

TikTok user @marisellabella went to multiple stores before they were successful. The formula was kept behind the counter, and only one per customer was allowed.

"This formula shortage is CRAZYYY," @marisellabella writes.

Even when formula is kept on store shelves, some stores are posting signs warning buyers that there are limits on how much they can buy.

"Due to limited supply, we are limiting the purchase of baby and toddler formula to three per transaction," says a sign in a photo posted by Instagram user @katpavzap.

"This is crazy. If you have formula sitting in your pantry unopened and not expired, get it to a food pantry ASAP," @katpavzap writes.

Mothers who feed their children breast milk are feeling the effects of the formula shortage, too. It's difficult for many women to exclusively breastfeed, and common for mothers to supplement their breast milk with formula.

"This is scary. As a mommy who supplemented with my first it hits home. So sad and scary for momma out there," writes Instagram user @melaniereneeyoung.

Many on social media are angry when they encounter bare formula shelves.

"This is the baby formula aisle at Target," Instagram user @once.upon.a.cross.stitch writes. "There needs to be OUTRAGE over this - parents should not need to fear that their BABIES are going to end up in the hospital from starvation. This needs to be a national emergency."

The formula shortage is particularly hard for those with special nutritional needs. A doctor in Memphis, Tenn., says two children were hospitalized after the specialty formula they rely on was out of stock.

Some on social media are getting political about the formula shortage. Twitter user @Jules31415 blames President Biden for the supply issue.

"Biden’s America: My local Walmart has almost no baby formula," @Jules31415 writes.

Others on social media are lamenting what they say is the hypocrisy of GOP lawmakers claiming to be pro-life and advocating for bans on abortion while refusing to help solve the formula shortage and feed babies once they're born.

"But you wanna ban abortion," Twitter user @TheMissTeah captions a photo of nearly empty formula shelves.

Many are simply frustrated and heartbroken as the formula search continues and they keep coming up empty.

"How is this the America we live in. One where people are struggling to find the right food for their babies," Instagram user @hyperheather11 writes. "This was our Walmart today, I look every time I’m in a store to see if they have what we need. They don’t, it’s heart breaking and worrisome."

Others are posting messages of solidarity as the formula search continues for many parents.

"Oooof. Hang in there babies. Hang in there parents," Instagram user @_jackiematthews captions a photo of empty formula shelves. "Sending love!"

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