Parents and families of infants who depend on baby food for their nutritional needs are in dire straits due to shortages across the country. Ongoing supply chain issues due to the pandemic, coupled with a formula recall by Abbott Nutrition and the closure of their Michigan manufacturing facility, have significantly impacted the shortage. By talking to their pediatrician, parents can work to find solutions as infant formula production ramps up in the coming weeks.
Abbott has reached an agreement with the FDA to reopen its facility and will begin production in the next two weeks. The government has also strengthened. President Joe Biden has asked suppliers to ship the ingredients used in the formula directly to manufacturers to boost production and has ordered the use of military aircraft to ship the FDA-approved formula overseas. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but the shortage could continue for a few more months.
In the meantime, parents should seek advice from their pediatrician and not rely on advice found online. Making homemade formula or using water to dilute existing formula are unsafe practices that can lead to electrolyte depletion and nausea in infants. Cow, goat, or powdered milk products are also not adequate substitutes for baby food because they lack iron, which helps prevent anemia in infants.
Baby formula is carefully balanced to provide the right amounts of electrolytes and nutrients for infant development. It is important to follow the mixing instructions on the container.
Some tips for finding baby food are:
– Check smaller shops with fewer walk-in customers for the supply of milk food
– Buy formula online from well organized retailers
– Looking for generic brands or private label formula
– Ask your pediatrician if they have formula samples
– Contacted local action agencies and food banks to verify the infant formula supply
– Contacting the United Way’s 2-1-1 to connect with charitable sources
– If you are pregnant, consider breastfeeding
– Contacting breast milk banks
– Visiting hhs.gov/formula (the Department of Health’s website) or individual manufacturer websites
Parents should check with their pediatrician when changing their child’s formula to ensure alternatives are safe. Having patience and not taking shortcuts or home remedies is key to keeping babies safe. Together we can weather the storm and find viable, safe options to keep children healthy.
Michal Maksimak, MD, Geisinger Healthplex Woodbine Pediatrics, Danville, Pa.