Formula Shortage: What to Do and How to Help
About 40% of popular formula brands are out of stock across the nation. With families scrambling to find supplies, the experts at Hackensack Meridian Health share important takeaways during this crisis.
If you’re a parent struggling amidst this formula shortage:
- Do not add more water to your formula. “Infant formulas have a very intentional balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates, to make sure your child gets the nutrition they need. So adding any extra water can disrupt this important balance,” shares Rose St. Fleur, M.D., medical director of the Center for Breastfeeding at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Whether you’re using pre-mixed liquid formula, or using powder, do not add more water than what is otherwise labeled on the formula container.Excess water will dilute the nutritional content leaving your child at risk for malnutrition, electrolyte disturbances, and even seizures.
- Do not make home-made formula. As a general rule, it is not safe to purchase store-bought ingredients to create your own formula.“There is no way to replicate the standards put in place by the Food and Drug Administration if you are trying to make your own formula at home,” adds Dr. St. Fleur. “This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and poor growth. Maintaining the strict sterile techniques required to keep homemade formulas safe can also be very difficult.”
- Use social media to your advantage. You may find tips on where stock is available, or families making donations.“On the flipside, be cautious about scams online – if someone is giving away extra formula make sure it’s a sealed container with a visible expiration date, and only make purchases from reputable retailers,” warns Shelley Saber, M.D., OB/GYN residency program director at Hackensack University Medical Center.
- If you can’t find your current brand, try a different one that is in stock. “Most of the time, if the formula brand you typically use is out of stock, a different brand can be introduced successfully. Many babies have little to no difficulty with a new formula,” says Dr. St. Fleur.Contact your pediatrician for any concerns regarding changing formulas.
- If stock is available online or at smaller retail stores, check for recalls, expiration dates and inflated pricing. “Unfortunately, parents also need to be mindful of people trying to sell expired formulas, formulas that have been recalled and price-gouging,” says Dr. St. Fleur. “It’s best to shop at franchised stores, such as drug stores, supermarkets, or baby supply stores.”
- Look into federally funded nutrition programs. “It may also be a good option for families to enroll in federal subsidies, if financially eligible, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC),” Dr. St. Fleur suggests. “Many families are eligible and may not be aware of it.”
- Consider donor human milk. Donor human breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition for infants, when acquired from safe and reputable sources. Accredited donor human milk banks carry strict standards for safety and nutritional content. Talk to your pediatrician or lactation consultant if considering accepting donated human milk from a trusted family member or friend – in some specific and highly limited situations, this may be acceptable. Accepting donor human milk from the internet is not recommended.
- If you are breastfeeding or pumping, know your resources. Learn what is needed to help build and maintain your breast milk supply. If you are having trouble establishing your supply, know there are resources available.
If you have stopped breastfeeding or pumping, you may be able to get your supply back.
“As long as there’s still some milk in your breasts, it is possible to replenish your supply,” shares Dr. Saber. “It can take a few weeks for your supply to completely dry out, so if you decide you want to try again, it might be possible.”
“The expression of milk is what will stimulate more milk to be produced, so the more you breastfeed or pump, the more supply you will build,” adds Dr. Saber. “Continue to offer your child supplementary milk, either pasteurized donor breast milk or formula, while you are reestablishing your supply.”
How Breastfeeding Moms Can Help Others
If you have an excess supply of breast milk, or you no longer need the stored breast milk you have, please consider donating your milk. Learn more through organizations such as Human Milk Banking Association of North America and New York Milk Bank.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our sources: Rose St. Fleur, M.D., Shelley Saber, M.D.
- To make an appointment with a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about women’s health services
- CDC - Relactation