Deal Finder: Tips for Parents During Nationwide Baby Formula Shortage

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By LATINA EMERSON, The Weekly Deal Finder

The nationwide shortage of baby formula has left many parents scrambling to find the formula their infant relies on for nutrition and survival. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to increase the production of various types of infant and specialty formula products, it could take weeks before the supply chain issues improve and these essential items are more readily available in stores. 

Until then, experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgia Department of Public Health are answering questions about the shortage and offering some tips on how parents can find the formula their infant needs. 

Why is there a nationwide shortage of baby formula?

Current shortages were largely caused by supply chain issues and the recent recall of several baby formula products over contamination concerns.

What is being done to improve the supply of baby formula?

To increase the availability of infant and specialty formula products, the FDA is meeting regularly with major infant formula manufacturers to understand their capacity to boost production of various types of infant formulas and medical foods. The FDA is also accelerating the review of notifications of manufacturing changes that will help manufacturers increase the supply of baby formula, particularly specialized formulas for medical needs, as well as expediting the necessary certificates to allow for flexibility in the movement of already permitted products from abroad into the United States.

In addition, the FDA is offering a streamlined import entry review process for certain products coming from foreign facilities with favorable inspection records. Read more: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFDA/bulletins/317391e.

What should parents do if they can’t find the formula typically used for their baby?

Parents unable to find the baby formula typically used for their child are urged to contact their pediatrician about appropriate nutritional and safe feeding alternatives, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends for parents to check smaller stores and drug stores, which might have more supply than larger retailers. They could also try to buy formula online, but should only purchase from well-recognized distributors, grocers and pharmacies, instead of individually sold or auction sites.

Also, parents can check social media groups that are dedicated to infant feeding and formula, which may have tips on where to find formula. They should double check this advice with their pediatrician.

“Additionally, we continue to encourage women to breastfeed, and Georgia WIC is working with families and formula companies to identify formula supply in local areas,” according to a nutrition coordinator with the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

Georgia WIC is working with WIC agencies statewide, local grocers and retailers, and formula manufacturers to help locate formula for clients, especially those in need of specialized formula. WIC clients who need assistance finding formula or have questions should contact their local WIC office or call 1-800-228-9173. To find the nearest WIC office, visit wicprograms.org

If parents can’t find their usual baby formula, how can they successfully swap formula brands?

It’s OK to switch most babies to any available formula, including store brands. However, there are some exceptions, such as if babies are on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula like Elecare, for which no store brand exists, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Babies will likely do fine with different formulas if they are the same type. Here’s more information about types of baby formulas: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/Choosing-an-Infant-Formula.aspx.

If babies don’t like the taste or have a difficult time tolerating a different formula, parents might want to consider gradually introducing small amounts of the new formula mixed with the usual formula and slowly increasing the amount of the new formula.

It may take some time for some babies to get used to a new formula, so parents should be patient. They should call their pediatrician if they have questions about whether their baby is tolerating the new formula.

If parents are running low on supply, is it safe to dilute baby formula or try to make their own?

Watering down baby formula is dangerous and can cause nutritional imbalances that may lead to serious health problems. It’s important to always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Homemade baby formulas are not advised. These recipes may seem healthy, but they are not safe and don’t meet a baby’s nutritional needs. 

Can parents give their baby solid food to stretch their formula supply? 

Solid foods should not be used to stretch baby formula supply, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Formula contains all of the nutrients that young babies need, and solid foods may not. Infants are usually ready to eat solid food around six months old, depending on their stage of development. Parents should talk with their child’s pediatrician about when their baby may be ready for solid foods. Here’s more information about nutrient requirements for baby formula: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=107.100.

Is it safe to get breast milk from friends or online groups?

It’s better to get breast milk from a local milk bank that is accredited through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America rather than from friends or online groups. Here’s more information about accredited milk banks: https://www.hmbana.org/find-a-milk-bank/.

What should parents do to avoid scams on baby formula purchases?

Consumers should beware of price gouging and other scams during the nationwide baby formula shortage. 

When buying baby formula online, only purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies. Also, consumers should be cautious of social media ads. They can research a company’s reputation on the Better Business Bureau’s website at www.bbb.org, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Consumers can report scams and suspected price gouging to the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123. Georgians can also file a complaint online by visiting consumer.ga.gov.

Are there any other warnings for parents regarding the baby formula shortage?

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that parents should not use imported formulas from other countries that are not reviewed by the FDA. 

Also, parents should only prepare the amount of formula they will use. They should throw out any infant formula that is left in the bottle after feeding their baby. During the shortage, it’s also recommended that parents buy no more than a 10-day to two-week supply of formula.

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