Why Is Baby Formula Locked Up? PLUS Tips to Source It Legally!

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


Have you noticed that some stores lock up baby formula behind plastic or glass screens? As frustrating as it is not being able to grab it off the shelf anymore, there are some valid reasons for doing this. 

Baby formula gets locked up because shoplifting is on the rise in the food and beverages category and this includes baby formula. An increase in pricing has forced some parents to steal infant formula. Criminals shoplift the product to sell with a cheaper price tag and drug dealers use baby formula as an additive. 

Key takeaways

  • Retailers are being forced to lock up baby formula to prevent shoplifting.
  • A baby formula shortage in 2022 forced many parents to find alternative ways of sourcing this food product.
  • Social media, speaking to friends and family, and approaching donation shelters are some ways of getting baby formula when there’s none in the local store.
  • A homemade baby formula recipe could save the day!

Why is baby formula locked up?

Believe it or not, infant formula is one product that’s often stolen straight off the supermarket shelves. With rising costs, addiction, and a source for making more money, infant formula is a highly sought-after merchandise for parents, addicts, and criminals. 

Some parents can’t afford baby formula 

The cost of baby formula has soared in recent years, putting strain on families struggling to cope with increasing living costs. Even the cheapest brand has increased by 22% making infant formula out of reach for many parents struggling with a tight budget. By 2022, it was costing parents 54c to $1.15 per ounce to feed their baby with infant formula.

Let’s do a quick calculation here – babies need, on average, 25 ounces of milk per day for the first year. If you’re buying the cheaper brand at 54c per ounce, it’s going to cost you $4,927.50 to feed your baby in the first year. More expensive brands will end up setting you back by over $10,000! Add this to the cost of 2-8-ounce bottles and bottle-feeding suddenly becomes a huge expense!

Food poverty is forcing families to find cheaper alternatives such as porridge to feed their little ones. However, this isn’t suitable for healthy growth and development in your baby’s first year. Other parents feel compelled to steal baby formula, forcing many stores to keep this item behind tills or in locked cabinets. 

As I wrote in another article, the high price of baby formula is actually one of the disadvantages of bottlefeeding a baby.

Addicts may steal baby formula to make money for their addictions

It’s not only desperate parents stealing baby formula but addicts and drug dealers are also shoplifting this food product for different reasons. Infant formula can be used as a cutting agent for cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. This dilutes the drug supply, making it stretch further.

Addicts use the same approach to either make money by doubling up their drug stash and selling it to other users. Or, they use baby formula to stretch their own supply of drugs to make it last longer. 

Stores are being forced to keep baby formula behind lock and key to prevent it from being stolen by addicts and criminals looking for an alternative drug additive

Criminals may steal baby formula to return for cash 

Where there’s a need, there’s a demand. But, what happens when a product becomes too expensive to meet the demand? Criminals step in to meet this demand by offering desperate parents cheaper prices for stolen baby formula. 

Baby formula crime rings aren’t something new – they recognized a market that was on the lookout for cheaper products. Baby formula theft shot up and criminals are selling this item in return for cash. And, retailers are retaliating by locking up infant formula. 

Was there a baby formula shortage? 

Triggered by a struggling supply chain and a recall, there was a baby formula shortage in 2022 which created panic among parents feeding their babies with this product. Faced with empty shelves, parents used other means and ways to source infant formula. 

What to do if you can’t get baby formula at your local store

Not all parents want to resort to thieving or buying baby formula on the black market. If you’re still struggling to find your baby’s preferred infant formula brand, here are some ways of sourcing it without using the illegal route. 

Use social media to reach out to people 

The social media platform is an incredible resource for networking and reaching out to people. Parents can use Facebook, Twitter, and online parenting forums to make an appeal for baby formula. You can offer to swap brands with other parents in the same situation as you or find a family that has stock available that they’re no longer using. 

Go to donation shelters for assistance  

Donation shelters can assist if they have a supply of baby formula although they’re quite strict about accepting this product because of the risk of contamination. Here’s an article I wrote about donating baby formula. Another option is to approach your local food bank which may have some infant formula to help you feed your little one.

Try ordering baby formula from online stores

If your local retailer has run out of baby formula, you can try ordering from online stores. Factor in delivery time so make sure you start looking before you run out of infant formula altogether. Drug stores, baby supply retailers, and infant formula manufacturers have come on board with e-commerce so don’t forget to check out their online stores.

Ask friends and family for recommendations

Friends and family are a great resource and you can turn to them for ideas on how to source baby formula for your little one. Asking for help often puts you in contact with people who can assist you when you’re facing a dilemma so try it out when you’re looking for baby formula!

Try a homemade baby formula 

This homemade baby formula recipe was shared by Mary Hunt to help desperate mothers during the shortage saga.


  • 2 x cups filtered water
  • 2 x tsp collagen protein
  • 4 x tbsp. lactose
  • 2 x cups milk
  • 2 x tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 x Lacto capsule (empty out the contents)
  • ¼ x tsp acerola powder
  • ¼ x tsp infant probiotics
  • 2 x tsp nutritional yeast flakes1/2 x tsp cod liver oil
  • 1 x tsp sunflower oil (cold-pressed)
  • 1 x tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 x tsp coconut oil
  • ¼ x tsp butter oil (optional)

Steps to making homemade infant formula:

  • Step 1: Add 1 cup of filtered water to a pan over medium heat
  • Step 2: Dissolve collagen protein and lactose in the warming water, stirring occasionally
  • Step 3: While waiting for the warming solution, place the milk and the rest of the ingredients (except for the coconut and butter oil) in a glass blender.
  • Step 4: Remove the pan from the stove and add the remaining water to cool down the mixture. Stir in the coconut and butter oil. 
  • Step 5: Add the water mixture to the blender and blend for 3 seconds.
  • Step 6: Pour into clean glass bottles and store in the refrigerator. 

This recipe makes approximately 35 ounces. It’s important to note that homemade infant formula isn’t considered safe as it could result in contamination, nutritional deficiency, and poor growth. Speak to your medical doctor first if you have any concerns. 


Baby formula is always in huge demand and when there’s a recall, a shortage, or a massive price increase, parents stress about how they’re going to feed their little one. The result? Locked-up baby formula to prevent theft from desperate parents, drug dealers, addicts, and criminals looking to make a quick and easy buck!

Instead of resorting to illegal activities, use one of my tips for sourcing baby formula if you can’t find it in your local store. A quick tip! Use these sources when looking for glass or plastic baby bottles. This way, your baby will get fed and you can relax knowing that the formula is safe to use. And in case you get foamy baby bottle formula, I have some tips on prevention measures to take.

Photo of author


I’m Balint, founder of this site and a father (and dad) to a baby-turned toddler. I found the world of babies so fascinating that I started a blog dedicated only to that topic. By the way, I studied physics, engineering (PhD, MSc), and therefore I do a thorough research when I write about something. Since it’s a blog, of course I also write about my personal experiences.

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