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A nationwide baby formula shortage is wreaking havoc on Black parents and babies, who are disproportionately impacted by the lack of access to the necessary nutrients to  grow and thrive.

With shelves across the country running low baby formula, some stores are rationing. In fact, five states are at critically low levels of infant formula.

Roughly 43% of the top-selling baby formula products at national retailers were out of stock as of the week ending May 8, according to the most recent analysis from Datasembly.

The shortage comes following a recall of Abbott Pharmaceuticals baby formula, the largest supplier of baby formula in the country. Several brands of Abbott baby formula were recalled due to contamination concerns. 

Barriers to breastfeeding as Baby formula shortage hits Black mothers hardest

And Black families are hit the hardest. Formula is very expensive, with a yearly estimated cost between $1200 and $1500. Many Black families are more likely to work poverty-level jobs, according to Economic Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, the internet is abuzz with “homemade” baby formulas. Yet, homemade formulas are not tested by the Food and Drug Administration, and have the potential cause sickness or even death. 

While some women are able to breastfeed their infants, Black women have much lower rates of initiating breastfeeding and maintaining a milk supply as they’re more likely to face barriers to breastfeeding. They include: “lack of knowledge about breastfeeding; lack of peer, family, and social support,” among other reasons, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control. 

In fact, Black women are less likely to receive breastfeeding support from their health care providers as well, and more likely to return to work quickly after childbirth, creating even more problems with breastfeeding.

While the federal government provides rights for breastfeeding mothers, not all organizations comply. Some blue-collar jobs do not provide “pump rooms” or places that women can privately breastfeed or produce milk. 

Additionally, Black women are more likely to work such blue-collar jobs. Their opportunities to breastfeed are therefore more limited than White women. 

Meanwhile, the federal government is racing to address the baby formula shortage. According to outgoing White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the Food and Drug Administration is “working around the clock to address any possible shortages.”

The FDA is also looking into importing from other countries.

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...