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For families of newborns and infants that are using formula, the recent news headlines and empty store shelves have been a cause of great concern.  In my 12 years as a pediatrician, I never expected that I would be guiding families through a formula shortage.  Our current formula shortage stems from 2 main issues…as with most industries, the past 2 years of the Covid pandemic has caused massive supply chain issues.  Formula is no different.  This issue was further compounded in February of this year when one of the major formula production companies issued a voluntary recall of many of its products and had to shut down a major production plant here in the US.  Now, here we sit with store shelves often barren of formula and parents worried about what they will feed their infant when the can of formula runs out.

Here are some important things to realize when it comes to formula:

    1. Generic or store brand formulas manufactured here in the US must meet the same safety standards as the “big” name brand companies.  This means that generic formulas are 100% ok to use!  Stores including Walmart, Sam’s, CVS, Target and even Amazon all have their own brands of formula that I encourage families to use. These generic brands will have many of the specialized formulas such as “sensitive” and “hypoallergenic, non-milk protein” as well.
    2. PLEASE do not add extra water to infant formulas to make them last longer.  By adding additional water, it can change the nutritional value of the formula as well as end up causing electrolyte problems especially in newborns and younger infants.
    3. Googling a recipe for homemade infant formula is not a good idea.  Homemade infant formulas, unless developed with a certified pediatric nutritionist, are not appropriate as there can be many vitamins and minerals that are lacking.
    4. Alternative milks such as goat milk, almond milk, rice milk or coconut milk are not acceptable especially in young infants.  None of these alternative milks alone can provide adequate nutrition to developing infants.
    5. Depending on your infant’s age and what other foods they are consuming, cow’s milk MIGHT be an option for a short period of time in place of formula. However, this MUST be discussed with your child’s pediatrician first to ensure that they are getting the appropriate nutrition.  Again, this is something that can be considered in infants 9 months and older but only with the guidance of your child’s medical doctor.
    6. You can always call smaller, local pharmacies to see if they know if/when they will be getting shipments of formula.  I am always so impressed with how helpful these “small town pharmacies” can be when it comes to customer service.
    7. Remember how toilet paper and hand sanitizer were like GOLD back in 2020?? Well that was because people decided to hoard these items.  Looking back, it seems pretty crazy right?  The same is true with formula. Please only purchase the formula that you know your baby will need for the next few weeks.  We are all hopeful that the supply issues will improve soon, but if everyone goes out and buys “in bulk” for months ahead of time, the supply issues will only be worsened.

While I know that this current formula situation has been very stressful and worrisome for families, it is important for parents to realize that there are options available.  It is difficult to make huge blanket statements about alternatives to formula given that each and every infant is different in regards to their specific growth and nutritional needs.  At the end of the day, please ask your child’s pediatrician for guidance if needed.

Check out the links below for additional guidance during this time of formula shortages.

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