What Parents Can Do During the 2022 Formula Shortage
Parents across the country are experiencing the effects of a formula shortage due to a recall earlier in 2022 and supply chain issues. With this shortage comes concern, anxiety and questions. Here is what parents can do during this time to ensure their children are getting the nutrients they need.
Why is formula important, and how long should parents give formula to their babies?
Like breast milk, formula contains vitamins and iron, which are essential for babies as they grow and develop. There are many babies and older children who rely on formulas to survive and thrive. Children usually take formula until they are 1 year old, but there are circumstances where children should continue using formula after the 1-year mark if they have an iron deficiency, anemia or developmental delays.
What can parents do who are having a difficult time getting their hands on formula?
1. If you are having difficulty finding your preferred formula brand, try using an alternative brand. When using an alternative formula brand, keep in mind:
- Alternative brands sold in the store are FDA-approved. Refer to the North American Society For Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition resources for alternate formula options.
- When using an alternative brand, be mindful of the mixing instructions as they can differ per brand.
- Some babies have milk protein allergies and need a hypoallergenic formula. Families of these babies may have fewer options when there is a shortage of the formulas upon which they rely. Using a different formula puts these babies at risk of becoming severely ill, possibly even requiring hospitalization. If your child has an allergy or is on a hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula (Similac Alimentum, Similac Elecare or Similac PM 60/40), talk to your pediatrician before using an alternative formula.
2. Try looking for formula at smaller stores or online through reputable vendors. The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests reaching out to the local Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women's, Infants and Children's (WIC) office or local charities.
3. In some cases, toddler formula may be used in emergencies for children who are almost 1 year old. Because every child is different, consult your pediatrician before incorporating a toddler formula into their diet.
4. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends buying no more than a 10-day to a two-week supply of formula to help ease the shortage impact.
5. If you are looking to increase your breastmilk supply during the formula shortage, talk to your healthcare provider about renting a hospital grade breast pump to help improve output. For breastfeeding assistance or tips, you can connect with our lactation consultants, who can offer personal breastfeeding consultations to help moms maximize or bring back their milk production. You can reach our team at 504-842-5210 if you are in the greater New Orleans area, 225-755-4448 if you are in the Baton Rouge area or 985-537-8291 if you are in the Bayou region.
What are some things parents shouldn't do when it comes to baby formula alternatives?
- Do not stretch formula by adding extra water, cow's milk or plant-based milk - It is not safe to water down the formula. This can lead to serious health problems and nutritional imbalances. Too much water dilutes a baby's normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death. Always follow label mixing instructions.
- Do not make your own baby formula - Homemade baby formulas do not meet babies' nutritional needs, and they are not safe. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some babies fed homemade formula have been hospitalized for hypocalcemia or low calcium.
- Do not purchase imported formula not approved by the FDA – Some imported formula is not analyzed and approved by the FDA.
- Do not use plant-based milk or other alternatives - Plant-based milks like almond milk are too low in protein and calcium for an infant.
If parents have trouble locating formula or have concerns and questions, don't hesitate to contact your pediatrician. Your child's health and nutrition are extremely important. If your child has special health needs and you can't find a particular formula, talk to your pediatrician about feeding alternatives.
Abbott, one of the largest formula producers, has opened a process to provide formula to children with urgent health needs who require a specific formula. Parents can visit www.abbottnutrition.com/metabolics to start the process online.