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A pediatrician's advice for navigating the baby formula shortage

Mike Mozart
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Caregivers across the U.S. are facing a baby formula shortage driven in large part by a recall.

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Caregivers of infants across the United States are going through a crisis right now.

There’s a shortage of baby formula, driven in large part by a recall from Abbott Nutrition, a baby food manufacturer. Formula is hard to find on the shelves, since retailers are rationing what supply they do have. And it’s expensive online – often much more than you’d pay in a pharmacy.

So if your baby needs formula, and you can’t get it, what are you supposed to do?

Dr. LaJuan Chambers, a pediatrician at UT Health East Texas, spoke with Texas Standard and recommends the following steps:

1. First seek the counsel of your primary care physician regarding available alternatives

An alternative “may not be the kind your infant is currently taking, but it may be a safe alternative available to you, either by prescription or through your local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in your community,” Chambers said. “So do not give up.”

2. Know that switching formulas won’t present complications for your child

What we know is that manufacturers have very similar recipes,” Chambers said. “So if you cannot find the brand name that you’re currently giving your infant, you might be able to substitute a generic or store brand for that formula, which is also going to be safe for your infant.”

Chambers recommends a gentle introduction of the new formula, starting with a small amount at a time, then building up the level you’re giving to your infant.

3. Know what to look for in formulas

Chambers says formulas should have a general complement of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients to promote growth and development, including Vitamin D, DHA and a protein and carbohydrate source that are safe for infants.

4. Avoid substituting other milks for baby formula

“I do not recommend whole milk for any infant under the age of 1 year,” Chambers said. “I don’t recommend, either, things like goat milk because it does not contain the necessary nutrients that an infant needs to grow and develop normally.”

Chambers also does not recommend following a do-it-yourself recipe, noting they are not safe in general.

5. Be patient and cautious

The shortage “really does not have a definitive end date. But what we do know is that we are all patient, and if we do not try to hoard formula, then there is going to be enough to go around,” Chambers said. “I say do not panic, but exercise caution and don’t fall prey to people who are trying to sell you perhaps something unsafe for your infant.”

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