The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately had widespread implications on various aspects of our society. Over two years since the outbreak, significant supply chain shortages are still plaguing our economy. One of the current shortages causing much alarm among parents is the baby formula shortage. Along with the recall of a number of infant formulas, many parents are stuck with empty shelves and hungry babies.
We will shed some light on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines and recommendations and show you the dos and don’ts of navigating the baby formula shortage.
- Buy more formula than you need.
- Dilute formula.
- Use plant-based milk alternatives.
- Make homemade infant formula.
- Talk to your pediatrician about switching brands.
- Use generic brand formula.
- Shop at online retailers.
- Shop small – think local stores and pharmacies.
- Sign-up for “in-stock” notifications, if possible.
- Reach out to family and friends to look out.
- Check milk bank requirements to see if you may qualify.
- Research donor milk options.
- Find a lactation consultant to seek assistance with milk sharing information, breastfeeding, or re-lactation help.
What if infant formula is out of stock everywhere?
With supply chain shortages and the recall of several contaminated baby formula products, many local stores and online retailers face challenges getting more supply in stock. To help ease this impact, the AAP advises that you do not buy more than a 10-day to a 2-week supply of formula at a time.
Is it okay to put extra water in the baby formula?
Even if supplementing with other vitamins, adding extra water is never okay. Diluting the formula with improper measurements can be extremely dangerous as it will cause less protein and mineral content, leading to electrolyte disorders that could result in hospitalization. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician.
Is cow’s milk a safe alternative to baby formula?
HealthyChildren.org provides detailed information about how to handle this:
If your child is older than six months of age and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product for allergies or health concerns), this may be a temporary fix that should not be done for more than a week.
A primary concern with doing this with infants between 7-12 months old is the insufficient iron levels in cow’s milk. If you have to supplement with cow’s milk, ensure you are providing plenty of iron through solids, which can be found in baby food with meat or iron-fortified cereals.
What about using plant-based milk alternatives if I can’t find formula?
Generally, milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under one year of age. Most of these plant-based and alternative milks do not contain enough protein and minerals to be sufficient for your growing baby. However, if you have a baby close to a year old, you may provide Soy milk for no more than one week. You will want to ensure you purchase the kind fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Can I make my own baby formula?
The AAP strongly advises against homemade baby formula. We understand that the desire to take matters into your own hands is tempting. Things feel so unpredictable, so why not try to make it at home? Unfortunately, these formula recipes are unsafe and will not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
Can I give my baby toddler formula?
Toddler “formulas” are not designed for infants. However, if you have an older infant close to one year of age, then toddler formula can be a safe choice for a few days.
What if I have small amounts of formula from different brands?
Many babies will be okay to switch to any available formula, including generic brands. The main goal is to seek a formula, if possible, that is the same type. We recommend verifying with your pediatrician to determine if this is a safe choice for you and your baby.
What if my baby needs a specialty formula?
Contact your pediatrician for assistance if your baby requires a special metabolic or amino-acid formula. Special quantities of Similac PM 60/40 and a few others are being released during these challenging times. Your pediatrician may also be able to direct you towards a comparable specialty formula for your little one.
Can I offer solid foods sooner to use less formula?
Formula is your baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year of life, while solids serve as a supplement. Solids are typically introduced around six months of age, depending on your baby’s development. However, it is critical to note that solid foods should not be used to stretch baby formula supply. Talk to your pediatrician about when you can safely introduce solids to your infant.
How long can baby formula be used past a “best by” date?
The FDA is required to label formulas with an expiration date. If a formula has expired or reached its “best by” or “use by” date, it may no longer be safe or have the same level of nutrients.
What if I have WIC, and I can only get one brand of formula?
Most states are providing assistance to WIC families by expanding the benefits to allow other baby formula brands in different sizes and forms. Get in touch with your local WIC office to find out what changes have been made.
WIC can also assist by connecting you with one of their lactation consultants to help you with breastfeeding or re-lactating if this is something you are interested in.
Is it safe to get breast milk from someone else?
There are many Facebook groups and online platforms out there to purchase breast milk. Unfortunately, when purchasing through unregulated platforms such as these, there is no way of knowing if the breast milk has been handled properly, the equipment to pump it sanitized, etc. Thus, you cannot know for sure if it is safe.
Instead, look for a milk bank accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Find a local milk bank here.
What if I have more questions?
Mercy Grace Private Practice is here for you during these difficult times. Our pediatrics team is highly skilled and desires to support you and your family during every step of your rapidly growing child’s life.
If you’re in the Phoenix-Gilbert area, call or text us at (480) 745-3702.