For Immediate Release
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Healthy Suggestions for Families During the Baby Formula Shortage
With the ongoing shortage of baby formula, many families are on a constant search, if not a panic, to find formula to feed their infants. The current shortage is largely due to supply chain issues and a recall of several contaminated baby formula products. To help ease the impact of shortages, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) most recently advised parents to buy no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula. By everyone abiding by this, more families will have access to the much-needed formula, while lessening the possibility of individuals hoarding this product.
Early last week, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced that it is taking additional steps to help improve the supply of infant and specialty formula products. However, if you're struggling to find baby formula during the shortage, below here are some helpful suggestions. Please keep in mind, however, this advice is strictly for URGENT situations. If you have any concerns about your baby's nutrition, please talk with your pediatrician immediately.
- Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of the supply of baby formula when the bigger stores are.
- If you can afford it, buy formula online until the store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites. Do not import formula from overseas, since imported formula is not FDA-reviewed.
- For most babies, it is okay to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as Elecare (there is not a store brand alternative). Ask your pediatrician about recommended specialty formula alternatives available for your baby.
- Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice you receive with your pediatrician though.
While it may be tempting to water down formula to stretch it out, it is NOT safe to do that. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous. It can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and can lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.
The AAP also strongly advises against homemade formula. Although recipes for homemade formulas circulating on the internet may seem healthy or less expensive, they are not safe and do not meet your baby's nutritional needs. Please be aware that some infant deaths have been linked to the use of some homemade formulas.
In addition, toddler formulas are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age.
As far as cow's milk being a safe alternative to baby formula, this may be an option if your child is older than 6 months of age and is currently on regular formula at this time (not a specialty product for allergies or other special health needs). If you are in a pinch, you could feed them whole cow's milk for a brief period of time until the shortage is better. This is not ideal and should not become routine, but it is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula. Although AAP doesn’t have a specific suggested amount of cow milk that infants 6-12 months old should drink, they advise not to serve more than 24 ounces each day for children over a year old. The most important concern with giving an infant over 6 months of age cow's milk is making sure they get enough iron to prevent anemia. Be sure to include plenty of iron-containing solid foods in their diet while you are using whole cow's milk. You may also want to talk with your pediatrician about giving your baby an iron supplement.
As far as using plant-based milk, milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under a year of age or infants with certain medical conditions requiring specialized formulas. Soy milk may be an option to give babies who are close to a year old for a few days in an emergency, but always buy a brand of soy milk that is fortified with protein and calcium. More importantly, make sure to change back to formula as soon as you have access to it. Be especially careful to avoid almond milk or other plant milks, as these are often low in protein and minerals.
If by chance you have access to older formula, please check the "use by" date before using it. This date can be found on each container and is required by FDA regulations. Formula is good until that declared date, which means the formula contains no less than the amount of each nutrient that is listed on the product label.
For anyone expecting a new baby or currently breastfeeding, Rowan County Public Health cannot encourage you enough to choose to breastfeed your child or to continue what you are currently doing. Not only is breastfeeding a less expensive way to feed your child, but there are numerous health benefits for both the mother and the child by doing so. The use of breast pumps is another alternative for interested mothers who may be having a hard time breastfeeding their child, but who are still interested in offering breast milk as the only source of nourishment and/or as the main source of nourishment, while supplementing with formula.
In closing, please do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your baby's health and nutrition. If your child has special health needs, please be sure to check with their doctor about medically appropriate and safe feeding alternatives. Also, if you qualify for WIC services, please feel free to contact our staff at 704-216-8797. With the guidance of your child’s pediatrician, our staff will be more than happy to discuss what options may be available. Our WIC staff also offers a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program to eligible individuals and can issue single-user breast pumps to any interested client. You may also want to visit the following website for more helpful tips and resources.
Download Media Release COVID-19 - May 17, 2022 (PDF)