The infant formula shortage is an ongoing crisis that’s impacting families across the country—and causing huge amounts of stress and worry in the process. 

“We're putting more money towards formula, we're spending a fair amount of time and gas searching grocery stores online and in-person, all of which is causing stress,” says mom Taylor V.

In an Instagram Live interview,* Motherly spoke with Christen Linke, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health and Veterans Affairs at the White House, about the specific steps the Biden administration is taking to resolve the formula shortage. Linke discussed the root cause of the shortage today—and what the government is doing to help. 

Watch the full interview here:

Working around the clock

It’s a scary and incredibly frustrating thing when you can’t find the food you need to feed your baby—and many parents feel like they’ve been left to their own devices during this time.

Linke shared that the government is working around the clock to do everything they can to get more products onto store shelves as quickly as possible, so that families can find what they need in the places they’re used to seeing it. 

“At the end of last week, [formula manufacturers] were able to report that they had increased production by between 30% and 50%. They’re running their factories 24/7 and increasing their production. Because of that, we can now say that today there is more infant formula coming off of U.S. production lines than there was before the recall. It may not be the brand that families are used to, but there is more total infant formula coming off of US production lines. That's been a critically important issue for us,” Linke said.

Just yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reached an agreement with Abbott Nutrition, one of the major U.S. formula manufacturers that was taken offline due to concerns about bacterial contamination, about restarting operations. The agency said that the Abbott facility could reopen in as little as two weeks, which will mean formula production could resume and be back on store shelves—though it may still take eight weeks for production to fully recover. 

Finding a safe substitute

In the meantime, if not able to find their preferred formula, parents should look for a formula substitute for their infant, Linke said. If your child doesn’t have an allergy or sensitivity, it’s safe to use any formula you find on the shelves. 

“A family should have confidence that it is safe to move babies between infant formula products if they need to. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions, but folks should have absolute confidence in the safety of US products across the board, and in switching between products as they need to. Again, talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions about what the best substitute products are for your family,” Linke shared.

Zero tolerance for bad actors

Parents in the Motherly audience have shared that they’ve had to reassess their budgets to afford more expensive formula in short supply, and there have been numerous reports of people buying up formula cans and reselling it at exorbitant prices to make a profit. 

“We’re taking really aggressive steps to crack down on bad actors who may be trying to take advantage of vulnerable families. In this situation, he President has absolutely no tolerance for people who are trying to make a buck off of this challenge and we are working with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission and State's Attorney General's to go after those bad actors and ensure that nobody is taking advantage of American families,” said Linke. 

If possible, buy only unopened, unused cans of formula from reputable sellers or people you know until more products are back in stock. 

“The FDA is in the process of announcing a new process to let more infant formula into the country from abroad,” said Linke. It should help increase supply once the agency has is able to assess the safety of that product and ensure that it is going to be safe to come into the country, she notes. “And we're getting rid of regulatory barriers that may keep products from moving safely and efficiently across the country.” All of that to help get more products on shelves. 

Linke underscored the seriousness of the formula shortage, both professionally and personally, as she shared she’s currently eight months pregnant with her second child. “We understand the degree of stress that this is causing American families and we are working around the clock to do everything we can to increase U.S. production capacity, to bring more formula in from abroad while ensuring safety and to move formula around the country.”

“I want folks to know that we are thinking of you and we are doing everything we can to bring formula to grocery store shelves… and hope to see things improving rapidly in the weeks to come.”

*Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity