This story has been updated. It was originally published on February 18, 2022.

Brooke Pimental is a foster mother in West Chester, Ohio, who tested six types of formula before acquiring one that works for her 5-week-old foster daughter. This persistence helped rid the child of painful gas and diarrhea – until the continuing shortage of formula did not make her suffer.

“She has a very sensitive system and we didn’t want to change things once we found out what worked for her,” Pimental said. She first ran into supply chain problems in late December 2021, when it took her three stops to find the right formula. Recently, she had the same problem again and finally found what she needed by paying twice the usual pharmacy price.

“I will have to keep paying as much as it costs to feed her and feel comfortable. However, this puts a lot of financial strain on the family, “she said, adding that government services would cover only one type of formula and not the type of her adopted daughter. Parents across the country are repeating Pimental’s struggle in online chat groups, using virtual support systems to help each other find the formula they need. In some cases, however, people try to find solutions that can be dangerous – even deadly – for their child.

Don’t panic. You can still feed your baby.

Most of us have been the least annoyed, and in some cases significantly embarrassed, by the lack of supply across many industries. Baby milk is no exception, but you may find it terrifying not to know where your child’s specific type of formula will come from when the last box runs out. Worsening, the current shortage is aggravated by a massive formula download. Not only did some families have to dispose of hard-to-find formulas that could be contaminated, but the Abbott Nutrition plant, which forced the withdrawn formula to be shut down, further cut back on U.S. supplies. Fortunately, as communities and the government try to respond, there is good news on the horizon.

On the one hand, 98 percent of the formula that American babies drink is made in the USA and strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administrationso it is less likely to be blocked by problems with international shipping. There may simply be a delay between its production and the moment it enters your baby’s bottle. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Abbott facility is one of those local manufacturers. However, he reached an agreement with the FDA to work on reopening and evaluating the factory can recover and work within a week or two after the agency signs the plan.

Still, “The big resignation“Probably means delays in the transportation and recovery of stocks, and supply problems may persist due to stockpiling behavior. Availability may vary from city to city, but hopefully help is on the way: President Joe Biden referred to the Defense Proceedings Act in an attempt to supply the ingredients of the formula to manufacturers, and the FDA offered it is open for more formula imports.

Until the shortage is officially resolved, there are still many opportunities for parents, says Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence St. John’s Health Center. If your baby is over 6 months old, you can also increase the amount of baby food and age-appropriate foods you eat, but you don’t have to replace formula with food completely, he says.

Think beyond the shelves of groceries

Creative sources can help you find formula outside of your typical grocery store or baby supermarket. In smaller stores, such as local drugstores, managers may know when the next shipment of a particular product should arrive, so be sure to ask, Ganjian says.

[Related: What the FDA is doing about the US baby formula shortage]

Like everything from baby swings to clothes that are distributed, social media is a first-class resource for finding boxes of formula that other parents may be willing to exchange or resell. But be careful with these products, warns Baby Nutrition Council of America: “The purchase of baby food from individuals, such as in flea markets, on e-commerce websites or on online auction sites, is not recommended. These products may have been improperly stored or shipped, which may adversely affect the quality of the formula. The council advises parents who do this to watch for any signs of tampering and to check the expiration date.

Asking your pediatrician for samples is also perfectly acceptable and encouraged. “We’re still charged,” Ganjian said, and your doctor should be able to provide similar samples so you can test other brands before changing. Finally, consider checking out hospitals and emergency departments. And if your family is in dire need of food, including formula, call 211 for access to community resources or visit Feeding on the American website to find nearby food banks.

If it hasn’t been too long, consider (other) breastfeeding

Breast milk is a nutritious and free alternative to formula, if available. IN American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand many other health organizations recommend it as the “optimal” option for feeding the baby, but emphasize that no parent should use this approval to protect their baby from enough milk. Also, parents who cannot or do not want to breastfeed should not feel overwhelmed to do so, even during a shortage of formula, because this can harm their mental health.

Ganjian, who believes “breasts are the best” as long as the mother can produce enough, says parents who can still breastfeed because they recently gave birth or have recently stopped may consider working with a lactation counselor. to restart breastfeeding as an alternative to healthy formula. However, if it has been months since you stopped breastfeeding or producing milk, this may not work, he explains.

“It depends on how motivated the mothers are,” he said, referring to the natural challenges of increasing milk supply. “I’ve seen mothers who have [decreased] a lot in milk production, but then they decide, “You know what, I really want to go back to breastfeeding,” and they take the pump and work with their breastfeeding consultants. “

Parents who can breastfeed but need formula supplements may also be able to use this combined strategy so that they do not have to find their hard-to-find formula so often. Also, if you can’t or prefer not to breastfeed, but still want to consider breast milk as an option, look for breast milk donation centers (Related to this, consider donating if you have an excess of milk).

You can also ask a trusted friend if you can buy or use their breast milk. Anita PatelA pediatric critical care physician at Children’s National Hospital explains that you should only consider this option if you are confident that your friend is sharing genuinely important information with you, including any medications he or she is taking or lifestyle habits that may affect the quality of the milk.

Changing the formula may not be as bad as you think, in most cases

It may seem that the formula your baby is using is the only type that will work, but other than some specific circumstances, this is usually not the case, Ganjian says. He explains that there are three main types of formula – milk-based, soy-based and hypoallergenic – and that it is best to switch to the same type if you need to change brands.

Parents should also avoid attributing eruptions or perceived stomach discomfort as allergies without confirmation from a doctor, and Ganjian hopes that parents will not accept that changing the product will be a problem. “Ninety-five percent of the time children change the formula …[they] they have no symptoms, ”he says, and parents need to know within two days if their child will tolerate the new type. “Talk to your pediatrician to make sure [any symptoms] “You don’t have to change gradually,” he says, “unless the baby likes the new.” In that case, you need to change slowly, mixing the old and new formulas.

Infant formula may be the last substitute for infant formula. But Patel says you should never try this without first talking to your pediatrician, as infant formulas should not adhere to the same strict regulatory standards as infant formulas.

Be extremely careful with cow’s milk

In a perfect world, you would not give your children cow’s milk until they are 12 months old, as they say. at risk of intestinal bleedingsays Ganjian.

However, given the lack of a formula, said the American Academy of Pediatrics parents may consider cow’s milk as a short break (one week, maximum) for children at least 6 months old. And anyone who thinks about it should absolutely talk to their pediatrician before or immediately after the shift to be able to help monitor the child’s health, says Patel.

Babies under 6 months old should not drink cow’s milk at all because their gastrointestinal tract is usually not mature enough to handle it, says Patel. This maturity begins to develop after half a year and Canada actually recommends considering switching when the child is between 9 and 12 monthsshe explains.

“There is nothing magical that happens the day before or the day after your child’s first birthday,” says Patel. “We have these guidelines because we know the average time that children tolerate milk at the same time and when they have to rely more on solid foods to meet their nutritional needs.

Cow’s milk also does not provide enough iron for infants, so they may need to get the important nutrient elsewhere – another reason Patel emphasizes communicating with a doctor.

Do not make your own formula and do not dilute the formula you have

Although it may seem like a desperate time, the lack of a formula should not lead to making your own formula at home or diluting the formula. This is a problem you can’t and shouldn’t get out of on your own. These alternatives are dangerous for your baby, Ganjian says. “The reason you don’t want to make your own formula is because your baby’s kidneys aren’t fully mature and can’t handle high levels of minerals, protein, calcium.” [and] phosphorus, so you want an FDA-approved formula, ”he says, explaining that the agency checks the electrolyte content in the formula to ensure that immature kidneys can fully process it.

[Related: Improving your baby’s bone health starts in the womb]

If you make your own, you do not know its contents with complete accuracy and the dilution formula may cause seizures, he says. Recipes for homemade formulas advertised online as reputable and “nutritionist created or approved” can still contain harmful ingredients.

Patel issued the same warning, combined with first-hand experience with the effects. “I can’t tell you how many children I’ve admitted to the intensive care unit with lethargy, seizures, malnutrition or worse – permanent brain damage – from improper mixing or deliberate dilution of formula,” she said. So seriously, don’t trust the recipe of your favorite mom blogger.

Updated May 22, 2022: This story has been updated to add more information about the various solutions and to update the facts with the current formula shortage situation.

Update, March 4, 2022: This story has been updated to further emphasize why parents should not replace formula with cow’s milk.

3 solutions for when you can’t find your baby’s formula

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