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How the White House is addressing the nationwide baby formula shortage

Currently, 43% of the nation's formula supply is out of stock — and parents are panicking.
/ Source: TODAY

A nationwide shortage of baby formula has led to empty shelves and panicked moms and dads, who are desperate to feed their kids. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recently called the growing problem a “life or death issue” for many infants in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 25% of babies are exclusively breastfed though six months, which means millions of babies depend on formula. But currently, 43% of the nation's baby formula apply is out of stock.

"There was one day where I went to 11 different stores and couldn't find any," one mom told TODAY.

On Thursday, the White House announced plans to increase imports of formula and crack down on price gouging. But there is no timeline for when parents can expect to see results on the shelves. President Joe Biden also recently met with retailers and manufacturers including Walmart, Target and Gerber.

"Families across the country — especially those who need speciality formulas — depend on the availability of infant formula," the President wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "I'm announcing new actions and working with the private sector to get infant formula into stores as quickly as possible without compromising safety."

Some people — including Sen Gillibrand —are calling on President Joe Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act, a war era measure that gives the President emergency powers to order certain companies to produce certain goods.

The shortage was triggered by supply-chain issues, but worsened after Abbott Nutrition, the nation’s largest baby formula manufacturer, closed its facility in Michigan, amid a recall due to safety concerns. 

Currently, major retailers including CVS, Walgreens and Target have put limits on how much formula customers can buy at one time. 

On Thursday, House Republicans gathered outside the U.S. Capitol demanding answers from the Food & Drug Administration, as well as the White House. 

“Babies have been put to bed hungry while parents are desperately trying to find alternative formulas that are often difficult to procure,” Rep. Elise Stefanik said. “This is not a third world country. This should never happen in the United States of America.”

“We would certainly encourage any parent who has concerns about their child’s health or wellbeing to call their doctor or pediatrician,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday. 

As parents scramble for solutions, online searches for homemade formula recipes have spiked. But experts warn against making your own formula or diluting the product.

“Formula is a complex product. It’s a very complicated balance of having enough water and nutrients,” Dr. Katie Lockwood previously told TODAY Parents. “Having too much extra water can be very dangerous to some children’s brains — and having too little water can be dangerous. It’s really a delicate balance that’s best done by a chemist.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates commercial baby formulas but does not oversee recipes for homemade formulas. It warns against making formula at home, citing the possibility of “very serious health concerns” for the baby.

Lockwood, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, added that stretching formula by adding water also poses health risks. 

“You don’t want to give infants — especially under the age of six months — extra water in the formula,” Lockwood said. “It can cause seizures and brain swelling, which can be fatal. You’re also diluting the calories that they’re getting."

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