Infant Formula Shortage: What Parents Should Do and Should Not Do
Due to the impacts of the ongoing pandemic and a recent recall of some powdered infant formula, the country is now facing a shortage of infant formula that is predicted to last through July. This shortage has affected thousands of families across California.
In response to the concerns that families in the community are facing due to the shortage, Families Together of Orange County and the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers have teamed up to provide information and local resources to those who have infants to feed. The below article includes information on what parents can do during the shortage, resources to rely on, and what parents should not do according to experts.
What Not To Do:
1. Do not feed your babies homemade or diluted infant formula.
With misinformation floating around regarding homemade infant formula, keep in mind that pediatricians strongly advise against making homemade formula. It is also important for parents to avoid overdiluting any formula. Here’s why:
- Homemade formula may not be safe or meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
- The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reports that some babies who are fed homemade formula have been hospitalized for hypocalcemia (low calcium), for example.
- Pediatricians recommend that babies are fed products that meet federal standards to provide the most nutritional value
- FDA approved infant formula is designed for the correct amount of nutrition as described on the label, and diluting the formula can decrease the necessary nutrients, which could potentially cause growth problems in your infant
2. Do not feed infants under 1 year old cow’s milk or other milk substitutes from the dairy section, such as almond or soy beverages.
Regular dairy products like cow’s milk or milk alternatives such as almond, soy or oat milk lack the necessary nutrition that all growing babies need. These products are likely to lack sufficient protein, iron, calcium and vitamins that are vital for all babies. Even if a product claims to have the appropriate nutrition, there is a chance that your baby will not adequately absorb the nutrients. Sometimes, certain ingredients, such as calcium and phosphorus, may have counter effects on each other that can work against things like bone growth.
3. Do not use toddler formula for babies under 12 months old.
The nutritional needs of an infant are not the same as those for a toddler. Secondly, toddler formula does not need to be FDA reviewed like infant formula does. This means that the toddler formula may not have been vetted by a government body to determine the safety of the produce for your infant. Always make sure to look at the label of whatever formula you buy to check it is appropriate and made for infants.
What Parents Can Do:
1. Breastfeed when possible.
While we know that not all people are able to breastfeed, we want to encourage those who can to continue breastfeeding, to do so. If you are struggling with production, there are resources to increase breastmilk supply including an article from WIC here. Various obstacles may also prevent individuals from breastfeeding. For those who find it hard to find time to pump, it’s important to know that in California everyone is entitled under the Lactation Accommodation in the Workplace legislation to a safe and clean room to pump while at work. Talk to your local WIC breastfeeding staff or contact your closest Breastfeeding Helpline for further assistance on breastfeeding.
2. Search for alternatives and resources.
The U.S. government has temporarily increased flexibility for formulas covered under WIC, and has imported foreign formulas to help with the shortage. Find a formula that is similar to the one you normally use for your infant and prepare it according to the instructions. For those who rely on WIC, here is a full list of formulas now covered under WIC during this time.
Anyone that is unable to breastfeed can find resources below on how to access infant formula. Please speak with your pediatrician if your infant needs a specialized formula.