The Lingering Effects of Infant Formula Shortages: How Policy Response Falls Short for American Families

AUSTIN, Texas – In February 2022, babies were born across the country, unaware of the challenges their families would face. The shortage of infant formula during that time caused distress for parents, with bottles disappearing from store shelves. However, as these babies approach their second birthday, a new wave of families is experiencing similar struggles. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, 1.4 million people reported difficulty obtaining infant formula in the previous month. A recent recall of a formula designed for children with allergies further exacerbates the issue.

This ongoing pattern of formula shortages highlights a disconnect between the needs of families and the pace of political action. While parents quickly adapt to the changing demands of their growing children, lawmakers, regulators, and corporations move at a slower pace. By the time policy responses are implemented, parents have already moved on to new challenges, and the sense of urgency diminishes.

One example of this mismatch is the response to the formula shortages in 2022. The Biden administration took steps to address the issue by importing formula, and regulatory bodies worked to improve tracking and food safety measures. However, as the worst of the shortage subsided, policymakers’ interest waned. Despite bipartisan efforts and proposed bills to address underlying causes, little progress has been made.

The discrepancy between the political landscape and the personal experiences of parents is not easily resolved. However, there are potential solutions to bridge this gap. Universal vote-by-mail would enable time-strapped parents to participate in the political process more easily. Momfluencers, who have a significant following, could mobilize their communities to advocate for policy changes that benefit parents and children. Additionally, young parents in Congress, such as those in the Dads Caucus, can utilize their own experiences to raise awareness among their colleagues.

As lawmakers return to the Hill and hit the campaign trail, they should bear in mind the adage that “the days are long, but the years are short.” Policy changes that support families must be implemented in a timely manner to address the immediate needs of parents and children. The sense of civic duty ingrained in parents due to their involvement in childcare systems, schools, and government programs can serve as a reminder for lawmakers to prioritize family-friendly policies. With greater alignment between the experiences of parents and the actions of policymakers, meaningful change can be achieved.