Just when we thought we were coming out of the crazy world of 2020 and 2021, 2022 hits us with a formula shortage. I’m here to answer the most common questions that I am hearing about the formula shortage.
Why? “Current shortages have been largely caused by supply chain issues and the recent recall of several baby formula products over concerns about contamination.” Basically, there are only a few companies that make baby formula for the big brand names as well as store brand formulas. Unfortunately, if one of these companies has problems, it can lead to massive disruption in production for lots of different brands. In this case, it’s Abbott, and they’re sorry .
What are families supposed to do?
Well that depends. If you’re already breastfeeding or pumping, continue to do so to the extent that you’re able. If you are having difficulty breastfeeding or pumping, please contact a certified lactation consultant asap to make a plan to get things on the right track. Issues such as painful breastfeeding, painful pumping, low supply, and others, can be solved by working with an expert who knows how to solve them!
If you’ve been buying retail formula, I know it’s tempting to stock up on formula when you see it in stock, but I recommend that you buy only what you need for 10 to 14 days. Stocking up on formula only adds to the shortage on the shelves for other families.
If you have been using WIC to obtain formula, North Carolina is now allowing WIC families to use their waivers for different brands of formula according to what they are able to find on the shelves.
You can try to find your formula at smaller local retailers or online.
Importantly, you can use a different brand of formula than what you have been using. Most babies tolerate a change in formula without difficulty, if the formula is the same type that they have been taking. I also recommend that you make only the amount that the baby needs at that time, to minimize waste.
It is very important that parents avoid trying to make the can of formula last longer by diluting the formula with extra water when they mix it. Mixing the formula in any way other than what the directions on the can say can be very dangerous to the baby. If the baby is on a specialized formula, or you just can’t find any formula at all, please contact the baby’s medical provider asap.
What about donor milk?
There is one certified milk bank in North Carolina, and obtaining milk through the bank is difficult and expensive. The milk is primarily used for babies in the NICU or medically fragile babies, and a prescription is required.
Another option is casual milk sharing.
But is it safe to feed my baby someone else’s breast milk?
Mothers have been sharing breast milk since the beginning of babies. The better you know the donor, the more likely the donated milk will meet your standards. Start with close friends and family to see if there is anyone who has extra milk that they can share with you. To be sure the donated milk is free from bacteria and viruses, you can pasteurize the milk at home. Please click here for detailed instructions for how to safely prepare donated breast milk.
Beth Sanders, BSN, RN, IBCLC