Published on July 20, 2022

Tips For Families Impacted by the Baby Formula Shortage

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Earlier this year, a plant that produced infant formula in Michigan was shut down, leading to supply chain issues and making certain formulas difficult to find throughout the nation. Understandably, this shortage has been a source of stress and fear for many parents, who may be unsure what to do if the brand of formula their baby has been drinking is suddenly out of stock.

For parents who have a baby who drinks formula, it’s important to contact your pediatrician if you have any concerns and especially if you’re having difficulty finding formula in stores. Sometimes, pediatrician’s offices may be able to get formula samples or recommend alternative formulas. Keep in mind that all formulas that you buy in the store are FDA approved, so the store brand formulas are just as healthy for your baby as the name brand formulas.

Another option that you can discuss with your pediatrician is using donor breast milk. Most states have milk banks, but depending on the milk bank, it may be pricey to obtain donor breast milk from them. Donor breast milk is typically provided in neonatal intensive care units (ICUs) to help reduce intestinal infections in premature babies. Contact a milk bank from one of the references below to see if your baby qualifies for donor breast milk:

There has been a lot of information circulating since the shortage began, particularly on social media. One misconception that has been readily shared is a recipe for creating homemade infant formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against creating your own formula, as they are not made to meet all of your our baby’s nutritional needs.

In addition, don’t try to make formula last longer by “watering it down” (adding more than the recommended amount of water.) This can cause serious health issues, such as seizures, and doesn’t allow babies to get the nutrients they need. It’s also important to be conscious of the ‘use by’ dates on the container – formula that is past the use by date can be unsafe.

For infants 6 months of age or older, you can give whole milk for up to seven days in the place of a regular formula, unless your baby is on a special formula for a specific health need (e.g., babies with reflux, prematurity, milk protein allergy, etc.) Giving whole milk longer than seven days can lead to your baby becoming deficient in iron, which can affect development. Also, don’t give anything less than whole milk, as even 2 percent milk doesn’t have enough fat in it to promote healthy brain development in an infant. If you’re giving your infant whole milk, be sure to feed your baby foods that are high in iron, such as baby food that is made with meat or iron-fortified cereals.”

Ultimately, the most important thing parents can do if they’re experiencing this is to contact their baby’s pediatrician. Every baby is different and has a different level of nutritional needs, and a health care provider will be able to help parents make an informed decision on the best option for their baby.

Ashley Huerd, M.D., is a pediatrician. She sees patients from newborns to age 17 at MyMichigan Pediatrics in West Branch.