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Formula Shortages : 5 Things Parents Can Do Now!

Medically reviewed by Tracey Agnese, MD, IBCLC, Board Certified Pediatrician and Lactation Expert
4 min read

Here are 5 things parents can do now to deal with the infant formula shortage. These recommendations are not a replacement for medical advice from a pediatrician. If your baby has a true medical conditions or allergies, you may only be able to use specific forms of nutrition for them. For a complete, pediatrician developed educational guide to navigating the formula shortage, click here.

1. Switch between formula brands to whatever you can find that day

Although parents were traditionally told to keep their baby on the same brand of formula (because you knew that the baby could tolerate it), any type of formula is still better than not having adequate nutrition for the baby. Formula is also a better choice over cow's milk.

2. You can switch among preparation forms (eg: ready-to-feed liquid, powder, and concentrated liquid).

If you are able to find other types of formula, then it is okay to switch your baby to a different form. This means if you have been giving your baby powdered formula, but you can only find ready to feed, it is okay to give the baby ready to feed. The opposite is also true. No matter which type you choose or can get your hands on, remember that you should always follow the directions on the package. Do not dilute formula. Diluting formula has led to severe health problems in infants including seizures and death.

3. Consider giving whole cow's milk if your baby is older than 9 months

Infants, especially those under 6-9 months old, definitely do not have mature enough guts to process large quantities of whole cow’s milk. They can become dehydrated, iron deficient, and can even have some gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and malabsorption of nutrients. But sometime after 6 months, their GI system starts to mature and they are able to tolerate it. It is a gradual developmental process of the gut. So, it is reasonable to consider using whole cow’s milk especially if your baby is closer to 1 year old, is eating other solid foods, and isn’t taking too much of the cow's milk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics usually recommends starting at 12 months, although right now the AAP has said “it may be OK for some babies over 6 months of age to have cow’s milk for a short period of time if no formula is available.”

In Canada, pediatricians have been recommending whole cow's milk starting at 9-12 months for some time. If you choose to give whole cow’s milk, do not give more than 16-24 oz per day. The main concern is that whole milk doesn’t supply enough iron for your baby. So, be sure to give iron-rich foods when giving whole cow's milk and consider also giving your baby a multivitamin with iron. Do not give skim milk or low fat milk.

4. Consider European Formulas

Consider giving European baby formulas (HiPP and Holle are the most popular brands). The AAP recommends against imported formula mainly because of lack of FDA regulation, shipping and storage concerns, and delayed recall notices. However, this is a safer alternative compared to diluting formula. Do not dilute formula.

Do check the nutrition label on imported infant European or toddler formulas if that’s all you can find. If there’s enough iron, consider a multivitamin with iron if there’s not (eg: Poly-Vi-Sol with Iron).

5. Breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding and are able to breastfeed longer, this is a great option. If you have recently weaned from breastfeeding ( in the last 2-3 weeks), you may be able to relactate. In order to get breast milk flowing again, you will need to pump frequently and you also may need to take some special medications. An expert in breastfeeding medicine will be able to help you manage this process. Do not feel guilt or shame if you have stopped breastfeeding. The formula shortage is not your fault!

Sources:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/Are-there-shortages-of-infant-formula-due-to-COVID-19.aspx

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