Parents and families of infants who rely on baby formula for their nutritional needs are scrambling due to the nationwide shortage. Ongoing supply chain issues from the pandemic, coupled with a recall on formula by Abbott Nutrition and the shuttering of their manufacturing plant in Michigan, have significantly impacted the scarcity. By talking to their pediatrician, parents can work to find solutions while production of formula increases in the coming weeks.
Abbott reached an agreement with the FDA to reopen its plant and will start production in the next two weeks. The government has also stepped up. President Joe Biden has asked suppliers to ship ingredients used in formula directly to manufacturers to boost production and has ordered the use of military aircraft to deliver FDA-approved formula from overseas. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but the shortage could last a couple more months.
In the meantime, parents should seek advice from their pediatricians and not rely on advice they find online. Making homemade formula or using water to dilute existing formula are unsafe practices that can lead to electrolyte deficiency and sickness in infants. Cow, goat or powered milk products are also not adequate substitutes for baby formula, as they don’t contain iron, which helps prevent anemia in infants.
Baby formula is carefully balanced to contain the proper amounts of electrolytes and nutrients for infant development. It’s essential to follow the mixture directions on the container.
Some tips for finding baby formula include:
– Checking smaller stores with less foot traffic for formula supply
– Buying formula online from well-organized distributors
– Looking for generic brands or store brands of formula
– Asking your pediatrician if they have formula samples
– Contacting local community action agencies and food banks to check on formula supply
– Contacting the United Way’s 2-1-1 to connect with charitable sources
– If pregnant, considering breastfeeding
– Contacting human breast milk banks
– Visiting hhs.gov/formula (the Department of Health and Human Services website) or individual manufacturing websites
Parents should contact their pediatrician when changing their child’s formula to make sure alternatives are safe. Being patient and not taking shortcuts or making home remedies are key to infant safety. Together we can weather the storm and find viable, safe options to keep children healthy.
Michal Maksimak, M.D., Geisinger Healthplex Woodbine Pediatrics, Danville, Pa.