Formula shortage: Pediatrician discourages substitutions, encourages conversations

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:46 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The FDA has struck a deal with baby formula provider Abbott, setting a plan to reopen its critical manufacturing plant. While it’s a step forward, it will still take weeks before that extra formula hits store shelves.

In the meantime, Covenant Children’s has released a list of what parents should do and should avoid when it comes to feeding their children. Pediatrician Dr. Jeremy Dalton says it’s important to remember that this is a shortage of formula, not an absence.

While it’s hard to find right now, he warns some alternatives people may suggest can lead to serious consequences. It can be tough navigating advice from agencies, doctors, family and Facebook, as parents try to feed their babies amidst the nationwide shortage. It’s something Dr. Dalton hears about often.

“Every day, So, every day all day long. So, we’re trying to help them find it [formula] and point them in the right direction but it’s going to be a group effort for the next few weeks,” Dalton said.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics just released a new recommendation that whole cow’s milk is an option for babies older than 6 months, Dalton says it should be a last resort.

“If you have to, I would be very hesitant about that. Infant formulas are specially designed and specially formulated to meet the special requirements for infants under a year, and so, cow’s milk doesn’t have many things that infant formulas have.”

The main missing ingredient is iron and he says switching babies to cow’s milk too early can cause them to become anemic. He says not to use other milk products either, like goat milk, as it has even fewer nutrients infants need. Dalton says it’s never a good idea to make your own formula, as it’s impossible to replicate at home and babies can get very sick if it’s contaminated. Diluting formula to make it last longer can lead to hyponatremia, or low sodium levels.

“If you add extra water to formula and do that for longer than a few days it can cause sodium levels to be very low and cause babies to have seizures.”

Dalton advises parents reach out to their children’s doctor if you can’t find formula.

“So, I think the first thing to do is if you have any questions or concerns, that they should call their pediatrician because they can give them some direction about what to do,” Dalton said.

Dalton says if you’re currently breastfeeding, keep doing it. If you’ve recently weaned, he says it’s totally safe to try and start that up again. If your baby doesn’t have any allergies or special nutritional needs, try different formulas and store brands. Social media can also be a good resource to find where shelves are stocked.

“The big box stores like Sam’s or Costco are a good option. Walmart’s been a good option and also don’t forget about smaller grocery stores and pharmacies as well. Sometimes they have formula where other other larger stores do not.”

Dalton also says not to buy formula from secondary markets like eBay, as it could be fake or contaminated. He also warns against buying formula coming from outside the U. S. since it’s not FDA approved.

You can find Covenant Children’s full list of recommendations here.

Covenant Children's Infant Formula Shortage
Covenant Children's Infant Formula Shortage(KCBD)

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