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Don’t make formula at home if there’s a shortage, doctors say

Infant formula inventory is low in part due to ongoing supply chain issues attributed to the pandemic, but the problem was exacerbated by the Food and Drug Administration’s closure of an Abbott Nutrition facility in February after that several children fell ill with bacterial infections potentially linked to his Similac, Alimentum and EleCare.

Still, pediatricians say commercial formulas remain safer than DIY options. The facility’s closure slowed production of infant formula, but it was implemented to keep children safe, experts said. “It’s a sign that the system is working,” added Dr Oyeku.

The first call any parent or caregiver struggling to find formula should make is their child’s pediatrician. They may have formula samples on hand or be able to help connect you with local charities or breast milk banks that can help.

At the end of last week, 43% of infant formula was out of stock across the country, but Dr Lockwood said the shortage was happening in “waves”. Most parents should use whatever they can find on the shelves or online from well-known distributors and pharmacies, and not worry that the change in formula will harm their children.

It’s safe for most babies to switch to any FDA-approved formula they can find, Dr. Abrams said, unless they have specific dietary needs. Babies receiving extensively hydrolyzed formula for allergies, for example, will need a comparable substitute, as will babies with specific medical needs. To address this need, the FDA now allows Abbott Nutrition to release “urgent and life-saving supplies” of certain specialty formulas on a case-by-case basis.

“A healthcare provider has to submit the form, but it’s a response to that specific need,” Dr. Oyeku said.

In a pinch, babies over six months old — with no known allergies — can have pasteurized whole cow’s milk for a brief period until parents are able to find formula. While it’s not ideal largely because it doesn’t provide enough iron, it’s best to offer them a homemade formula or dilute a store-bought formula with water, Dr. Abrams said.

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