A formula shortage in 2022 had parents scrambling to find alternative options for their babies. In 2022, a formula shortage due to the pandemic, product recalls and supply chain issues left grocery store shelves bare and parents in search of infant formula. 

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that more than 57.5 percent of parents had to switch stores in order to find baby formula in the fall of 2022, falling slightly to 57 percent by the summer of 2023. 

More than 20 percent of parents reported they were having a hard time finding formula in the summer of 2023, an improvement of more than 14 percentage points over the fall of 2022. 

A study conducted by the University of California - Davis, found that many infants suffered health effects resulting from the formula shortage. Approximately 60 percent of infants whose parents had to switch formulas experienced issues such as fussiness, gas, spit-up, constipation and diarrhea. Meanwhile, 48.5 percent of individuals used at least one unsafe feeding practice during the shortage, up from 8 percent prior to the shortage.

The Census Bureau report found that between the dates of September 14 and October 17 in the fall of 2022, parents of infants or babies under 1 year were asked how they were coping with the shortage. More than 34 percent said they had difficulty getting formula during the previous seven days. 

By the summer of 2023, this number had fallen to just below 20 percent, signaling that the pandemic was no longer having the same impact on formula availability. 

Many parents reported they dealt with the shortfall by changing shopping behaviors, such as changing brands or types of formula. More than 55 percent of parents had changed formulas by the fall of 2022, improving to 44 percent by the summer of 2023. 

More than 32 percent of parents indicated that they had dealt with the shortage by receiving formula from family and friends, or “others.”