Growing Concerns About Infant Formula Availability

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healthy baby

By Dr. Jimi Francis, IBCLC, RDN, LD and Dr. Darby Dickton, DO

Some practical information:
What To Do and What Not To Do

Growing Concerns About Infant Formula Availability

By Dr. Jimi Francis, IBCLC, RDN, LD and Dr. Darby Dickton, DO

Some families must use infant formula to feed their babies. The reasons vary. The reality is that less than half of the babies in the United States are exclusively breastfed at 3 months of age and about 26% of babies are exclusively breastfed at 6 months old.1 These means that there are a large number of babies relying on infant formula for some or all of their nutritional intake. Breastfeeding activists bemoan those numbers, but they are the reality, and the reality is, these babies need access to adequate nutrition.

Most people are now aware that there was an infant formula recall in February 2022.  Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare infant formula made by Abbott recalled some powered formula. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts regular inspections of food manufacturing companies. The FDA reported in a report from September 2021 and one from 2019 that Abbott didn’t maintain clean surfaces in areas where  powdered formula was produced and handled. The inspectors also identified a history of multiple occurrences of contamination with bacteria, specifically cronobacter, from the fall of 2019 to most recently in February 2022.

Abbott has a website (https://www.similacrecall.com/us/en/home.html) to help consumers identify the products that were recalled by examining the coding on the bottom of each container. The containers of powered formulas that were recalled have an expiration date of April 1, 2022, or later.

The removal of these products and supply chain disruptions have reduced the amount of infant formula available. We are hearing from many families of their concerns.

So, what to do now? Let’s go over some do’s and don’ts.

What To Do

Do – My first recommendation is be kind!

Do – Those of you who are breastfeeding exclusively and have received infant formula but are not using it, DO dig it out of the closet. Check the containers for date and lot number on the website listed above. If it has been recalled, follow the manufacturers instructions. If it is not on the recall list, DO share it with a family that needs it.

Do – If you are breastfeeding and have adequate milk supply, DO donate some milk to your local milk bank. If you’re local to Central Texas, Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin is one option (we are not affiliated).

Do – If you are concerned about not being able to buy formula, DO contact your local milk bank and determine the availability of donor breastmilk. If you’re local to Central Texas, Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin is one option (we are not affiliated).

Consider – If your baby has been using a formula for a sensitive tummy, they may not need it after 3 to 4 months as their gut matures. It may be possible to change to a different formula as your baby grows especially if your baby is older than 6 months of age and eating complementary foods.

What Not To Do

Do NOT tell families they should have breastfed.

Do not judge others.

Do not dilute infant formula. Babies need a certain number of calories. They do not get the energy they need from water.

Do not make your own formula at home from ingredients such as cow milk, goats, donkey, or sheep milk. Infants cannot digest the proteins in milks other than in human milk. Other “milk” such as almond, oat, or soy are not designed for a baby to digest, and these “milks” do not have adequate nutrients for babies.

Do not use imported formulas from other countries that are not reviewed by the FDA.

We can try answering any questions you have, but please refer to brand specific information on their respective website or phone numbers. Remember, we do best when we all support each other in our community, so please be kind and as patient as possible in these difficult times.

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