By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Families impacted by the ongoing baby formula shortage can talk to their pediatricians about switching to available brands, but Alabama doctors warn against diluting formula or making at-home versions.
“We’re hearing from parents everyday who are having trouble finding formula,” said Dr. Katrina Skinner, a Fairhope pediatrician and president of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Especially for those babies who have to be on a special formula because of a sensitivity and allergy or a metabolic disorder that was diagnosed by their pediatrician, those are the ones that we have to be most cautious with because they shouldn’t be making changes unless they’re consulting with their pediatrician.”
For babies who aren’t taking specialized formulas, switching brands, including to store brands, may be an option, Skinner said.
Supply chain issues began last year but the shuttering of a major production plant because of contamination concerns earlier this year has compounded the problem.
According to the retail tracking firm Datasembly, about 43% of baby formula was out of stock last week, up from 30% in April.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden’s administration said it is working with suppliers and retailers in an effort to increase production and access.
Abbott, the maker of several formula brands including Similac, said this week it hopes to reopen in two weeks the Sturgis, Michigan plant that was closed in February. It said once production resumes, it could take six to eight weeks to get the formula on store shelves.
In the meantime, some parents have turned to social media in an effort to track down specific brands of formula.
Skinner said there are many reasons parents may choose formula for their babies — from milk production issues to lack of social support for breastfeeding. She said pediatricians’ offices may have formula samples available to families.
Health officials warn against feeding babies non-formula options.
“Families should avoid making their own infant formula or using alternative milk products outside of formula, almond milk, rice milk, cow’s milk, prior to 1 year of age and without discussing safe alternatives with their health care provider,” Dr. West Stubblefield, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s District Medical Officer. “Families should also use caution when purchasing formula from internet sellers outside of well-known distributors. Finally, purchasing formula from overseas can be dangerous as these formulas are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Families are encouraged to try alternative brands of infant formula, including store brands, if their preferred brand is not available. Other options include switching to a ready-to-feed product or liquid concentrate if powdered formula is unable to be located.”
More tips for parents during the shortage are available from the American Academy of Pediatrics.