Doctors are warning parents not to make their own baby formula or ration their supply amid a national shortage that has forced some to scour online markets or cross state lines to purchase products.
The worsening shortage of baby formula — the primary source of nutrition for many infants, particularly those who require specialty mixtures due to allergies or gastrointestinal conditions — has led to a 40% decrease in inventory nationwide, according to Datasembly. As a result, parents are turning to their pediatricians with questions about how to prolong their supply.
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"I'm finding that parents are pretty desperate,” Dr. Lanre Falusi, a pediatrician at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told Fox 5. “We've definitely gotten calls from parents asking how they can extend the life of the formula that they currently have.”
Parents should be wary of scammers selling baby formula online, and they should never purchase products the Food and Drug Administration has not approved from other countries. Several parents have also asked about diluting their formula supply with water to make it last longer, which Falusi says is dangerous because it does not properly nourish infants and can cause seizures or death.
"Diluting the formula is actually very dangerous for babies,” she said. “Formula, just like breast milk, is formulated in a way for babies of that age. When we add water to it, it dilutes the minerals and nutrients and proteins that babies need.”
Instead, parents should contact their pediatricians to see if they have an extra supply in their offices or check smaller neighborhood grocery stores that may have some in stock, Falusi said.
The recent baby formula shortage comes after a February recall of powdered formulas manufactured at Abbott Nutrition’s manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, where operations have paused. The FDA issued a recall after receiving reports of infections in four babies caused by Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria that was linked to the manufacturer.
Abbott, one of the largest producers of baby formula, said it is “working closely with the FDA to implement corrective actions.”
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The shortage was also exacerbated by an unexpected baby boom in the early stages of the pandemic that other manufacturers were not prepared for, as well as a recent decline in breastfeeding that has caused an increased demand for formula.
Meanwhile, Abbott is ramping up production at its facility in Columbus, Ohio, to produce Ready-to-Feed liquid formula, which was not affected by the February recall. The company has also upped output at one of its facilities in Ireland to air-ship products to the United States.