May 18, 2022
Talk to your pediatrician. Your baby’s doctor will help you make the best decisions for your family’s situation. You can always ask them about any concerns you have for your baby’s nutrition. This is especially important if your baby is on special formula because of health concerns ranging from slow weight gain to allergies. If you are in an urgent situation and worried you won’t be able to feed your child, your pediatrician can help you find available resources.
Have patience. Families will have to search harder and go to extra effort to find formula, but it’s important to remember this is temporary. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is taking steps to increase the supply of infant formulas. Resist the urge to buy more formula than you need, so other families also have access. Having a two-week supply on hand is sufficient. Low-income families may qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as the WIC program. The Arkansas administrator for WIC has ample supply. Reach out to your local Arkansas Department of Health unit to learn about WIC eligibility.
Consider substituting another formula, including store brands. Baby formulas in the same category can often be substituted with other brands because they are made from similar ingredients. You can find a substitution chart recommended by Arkansas Children’s Hospital Clinical Nutrition Department below. If your baby is on a specialty formula, your pediatrician can provide the best guidance.
Ask if your child is old enough to introduce cow’s milk. Your pediatrician will be able to tell you if this is the right choice for your baby. Generally, infants over six months of age who consume regular formula can start trying cow’s milk. This may be a short-term solution until you can find formula again. Cow’s milk is not a good alternative for babies six months of age and younger.
Never dilute formula. Formula is highly regulated and needs to be mixed to certain specifications to deliver the right nutrition. It is not safe to water down formula. This can lead to nutrient imbalances and serious health problems like seizures. Dr. Schexnayder has cared for babies who have experienced brain damage caused by diluted formula.
Don’t use homemade formula or internet recipes. Homemade formulas and recipes circulating on social media are not safe. Do not attempt to use them, even if they seem healthy or inexpensive. A baby’s developing organs may not be able to break these down. Your baby’s health is too important to risk!
Use your network and good judgment. Social media support groups have helped many families figure out which stores have supply in stock. Be careful to buy only from known retail sellers and do not use opened products.
Babies depend on us to make good decisions that keep them healthy. We can navigate the challenging weeks ahead with patience and determination to do what's best for our children.
Find more advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/Are-there-shortages-of-infant-formula-due-to-COVID-19.aspx