State and federal agencies and health care websites have started to provide tips for parents on where to obtain infant formula during the current shortage across the United States.
The healthychildren.org site of the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that in urgent situations, caregivers should check smaller stores and drugstores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are. The academy also suggests that parents buy formula online if they can afford to until store shortages ease. But they caution that people should purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites.
What is the best baby formula?
For most babies, it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, according to the academy and the Louisiana Health Department. An exception applies if your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as Elecare. Ask your pediatrician about recommended specialty formula alternatives available for your baby.
There are social media groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula, the academy says. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.
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What about homemade baby formula?
The academy 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. Infant deaths have been reported from use of some homemade formulas.
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Can I water down formula?
While it may be tempting to water down formula to stretch it out, it is not safe to do that, according to the Louisiana Health Department. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician.
Dr. Christen McDaniel of Thibodaux Regional Health System said patients who have allergies are being hardest hit by this shortage. Due to the low availability and high demand for these specialized products, "we see patients who have been forced to take standard milk-based formula despite allergies which can cause a whole host of issues," McDaniel said.
Call your pediatrician, McDaniel advised, if you are facing the threat of running out. She said doctors' supplies are much more limited than normal, "but even if we do not have the exact formula your child has been on, we can offer comparable — or at least safe — formula options."
Why is there a baby formula shortage?
Abbott Nutrition recalled several lots of Similac and other brands after bacterial contamination at its Sturgis, Michigan, plant led to the facility's shutdown on Feb. 16. Four babies were sickened, and two died. The plant's closure exacerbated a shortage caused by supply chain issues in some parts of the country.
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How long will the formula shortage last?
The shortage is expected to last at least another six to eight weeks, after a consent decree signed by Abbott Laboratories on Monday. An agreement with the Food and Drug Administration outlined the steps the company needed to take to reopen its Sturgis formula plant.
While production ramps up, Abbott said, it is flying in supplies from a facility in Ireland. And the FDA announced May 16 that it would ease import restrictions for 180 days to allow international manufacturers to help address the shortage, while still ensuring that the formula adheres to U.S. safety and nutrition standards.
What to do if you run out of formula?
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services this week issued an advisory outlining how parents can still secure infant formula during the current shortage. Gerber offers the online service MyGerber Baby Expert, which lets users consult online or via phone or text with a nutritionist or lactation consultant, and help identify a viable alternative formula.
Abbott has a consumer hotline at 800-986-8540, and Reckitt has a customer service line at 800-BABY-123.
WIC-eligible families can check online for nearby locations to pick up infant formula.
OB-GYNs and pediatricians can offer guidance on readily available formulas available in stores.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America offers a list of accredited breast milk banks for mothers in need.
Check local parents' or mothers' pages on Facebook. Volunteers in many counties have created Facebook pages for formula exchanges and tips.
— Daniel Munoz is a staff writer for NorthJersey.com. Colin Campo is a reporter for the Houma Courier and Thibodaux Daily Comet. Both are part of the USA TODAY Network.
This article originally appeared on The Courier: baby formula shortage: Here are some tips during the low supply