Baby formula shortage: How should parents feed infants; is homemade formula an option?

As the search for baby formula becomes dire, with parents driving hours searching for canisters of baby formula powder their children can eat, what options do parents have when there is no formula to be had?

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Datasembly, a company that gives real-time product pricing and product availability trends, said that more than 40% of the most popular brands of baby formula are sold out at stores across the country.

To help ease the crisis, the Biden administration announced steps to help get formula back on empty store shelves, but it will take time.

>>Previous coverage: Baby formula shortage: Biden announces steps to help lessen supply chain issues

Doctors and health care providers are offering some suggestions that may work for your children. But like most medical advice, check with your child’s pediatrician before changing their diet.

What you can do:

Ask for samples

Reach out to your baby’s pediatrician and see if they have samples. You can also ask if European formulas that may be similar to the products your baby is used to would be OK to use if what is normally purchased is unavailable, CBS News reported.

Buy store brands

If a name brand is unavailable, consider store-brand formula.

“Unless a baby is on specialty formula, most ingredients are similar,” Jackee Haak, a lactation-care provider and board member for the United States Lactation Consultant Association, told CBS News. “For regular formula, switching brands is not as scary as people used to think it was, so there are opportunities for that as well.”

>>Previous coverage: House panel to examine baby formula shortage; when will it be available?

Reach out to milk banks

There has been a surge in interest in breast milk banks, where women can donate breast milk.

“Every milk bank that I have spoken with has seen a major increase in demand,” Lindsey Groff, the executive director of the Human Milk Bank Association of North America, told NBC News.

Priority is given to premature babies or infants with severe health issues, but full-term, healthy babies can also benefit.

While demand has increased, so has the number of donations. Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank in Pittsburgh has increased its donations by 20% in the last three weeks, NBC News reported.

Cow’s milk

For babies older than six months, whole cow’s milk is safe for them to consume as long as the babies don’t have special dietary needs, Dr. Steven Adams, a professor of pediatrics at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, told CBS News.

But cow’s milk should only be used for babies older than 6 months.

“For babies under 6 months of age, it’s a real problem, especially in the first few months. Whole cow milk is not a good alternative, nor are adaptive cow milk formulas, Adams said.

>>Previous coverage: Baby formula shortage: FDA approves plan to release some Abbott-produced formula

What you should not do:

Do not dilute formula

If you have cans of formula, don’t add extra water to make it last longer.

Diluting formula is “basically the same as giving the baby extra water. All it does is fill up their stomachs. It doesn’t actually provide them with nutrition. It doesn’t do anything to fortify the baby, and is the same thing as using juices, Adams said, according to CBS News.

Do not make your own

Doctors are warning parents not to try to make homemade formula.

“This is a very medical school no-no,” Dr. Payal D. Adhikari, a Chicago-based pediatrician, said, according to KFOR. “Formulas are very, very specific in what nutrients they have. So I absolutely do not recommend making your own formula at home.

Dr. Natasha Burgert, who is also a pediatrician in Kansas, tweeted a reminder to parents, according to KTLA.

Dr. Katie Lockwood, an attending physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Primary Care, told The New York Times, “Regular formula is FDA-regulated and held to very high standards, the same way we treat medications. Making it at home is a lot riskier.”

Formula is actually manufactured to mimic human breast milk as closely as possible, and is regulated to make sure that the nutrients babies need are present in a way that they can process them.

“The nutrients in homemade formulas are inadequate in terms of the critical components babies need, especially protein and minerals,” Dr. Steven Abrams, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the Times.

Homemade formulas may not have the correct balance of nutrients and liquids, which could lead to a condition called water intoxication, which could lead to seizures, the Times reported.

Homemade mixes can also be contaminated with bacteria and germs that can be dangerous for babies under 6 months, whose immune systems have not fully developed, according to the newspaper.



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