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Dos and don’ts for the baby formula shortage

The difficulty finding some infant formulas right now might have families wondering what they can do if they can't find their baby's brand. Sunaina Suhag, MD, FAAP, Pediatrics at ARC East 7th, said in this recent Austin American-Statesman article, shortages have been felt throughout the pandemic, but "this has been a time of great need" for parents, especially those who use specialty formulas. If you are having trouble finding your usual brand of baby formula, call your pediatrician. The doctor or nurse may be able to offer suggestions for alternatives.

Here are some other dos and don’ts for dealing with the baby formula shortage:

  • Do try to find a formula with the same ingredients. You can also try using the same manufacturer but switching to a gentle or sensitive or other type in that same brand. You can also buy the premixed version instead of the powder of your brand.
  • Don't wait until you run out. If your baby formula does run out at the store and you have some on hand, you can mix your preferred brand with the new brand to get your baby used to the new type. Ideally transitioning would be done over three to four days, but right now that's not often possible, Dr. Suhag says.
  • Don't water it down. Formulas are engineered to provide the proper nutrition.
  • Don't use toddler formula. Their nutritional ratios are not the same, but if it's an emergency, look at that toddler formula to make sure it has similar nutritional values as the infant type. Some are close enough. "I wouldn't do it long-term, but it's a bridge," Dr. Suhag says.
  • Don't try to use an imported formula. Those aren't FDA regulated, which means you don't know what's in them or their safety records.
  • Don't make your own. It's not safe and doesn't have the nutritional criteria.
  • Do look for alternative places to get formula. Dr. Suhag has had good luck by checking pharmacy and grocery store websites and smaller stores to find supplies. Use social media to see if friends or neighbors might have your formula and can share or is no longer using it. Ask your pediatrician's office for samples.
  • Do keep breastfeeding. If you do both, try pumping more if you can to offset the use of formula. Breastfeeding, however, is not something you can just start if your baby is being formula-fed because the milk supply is now gone. It takes medical supervision, possibly medication, and time to get a milk supply back, if it's even possible, Dr. Suhag says.
  • Don't try to introduce foods earlier. Formula is the primary mode of nutrition for infants because of the nutritional value, including vitamins and nutrients such as iron.
  • Don't switch to cow's milk. Cow's milk should not be started until age one and even then it should be whole milk.
  • Don't switch to plant-based milks. They don't have enough of the proteins and nutrients that babies need. Babies don't have the ability to regulate their electrolytes and these milks as well as homemade milks can create an electrolyte imbalance and harm the brain, Dr. Suhag says.
  • Don't switch to water. Babies need the nutrients in the formula.

Make an appointment today

If you need to consult a pediatrician, Dr. Suhag is currently accepting new patients. Call ARC East 7th at 737-910-6700 or book an appointment online.

Tags: Infant formula, Baby formula