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2022-05-28 01:18:20 By : Ms. Jane Yan

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Finding the perfect baby formula for your little one can be challenging even under the best of circumstances. But the ongoing Abbott formula recall coupled with the pre-existing pandemic infant formula shortages have made things even more difficult than usual.

In case you’re not familiar with the recall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled certain powdered baby formulas in February — including some Similac, Alimentum, EleCare and Similac PM 60/40 products — made at a single Michigan facility by Abbott Nutrition.

The agency issued the recall due to a possible contamination with Cronobacter, a bacterium that can cause severe foodborne illness. So far, the FDA has received four reports of infants who were hospitalized after using the recalled products. Two of them later died.

Stores have removed the affected products from their shelves, but even parents who don’t use the recalled formulas are struggling to find their go-to brands in stock right now. Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing formula shortage, plus what pediatricians recommend you do to find the nutrition your baby needs. 

You’re not imagining things: The global pandemic has created supply chain issues across a slew of different industries, including baby formula.

“What families of young children are experiencing right now is a crisis on top of a crisis; they have been through so much already with the pandemic, and now many families are struggling to find safe ways to feed their babies,” American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Moira Szilagyi, M.D. recently wrote in a letter to federal officials.

The Abbott recall has sent parents who would have purchased the recalled products to other brands already facing production strains. As a result, there are shortages across the board. According to the firm Datassembly, the national baby formula out-of-stock percentage was 43 percent as of early May 2022 (up from 30 to 40 percent the previous month). Continue Reading Below Read This Next Should You Buy European Baby Formula During the Formula Shortage? Is Homemade Baby Formula Ever Safe? How Can You Swap and Find In-Stock Formula Brands During the Shortage? Should You Buy European Baby Formula During the Formula Shortage? Is Homemade Baby Formula Ever Safe? How Can You Swap and Find In-Stock Formula Brands During the Shortage?

On May 16, the FDA and Abbott reached an agreement to restart production at the company's Michigan facility, which should help ease the shortage. However, it can take six to eight weeks after the start of production until the newly-produced formula appears in stores.

The FDA is working to accelerate production of imported formula, which needs to be overseen by the FDA and properly shipped and stored for safety before it's allowed to be sold here. The agency will also be reviewing the formulas' labeling and nutrition content before giving it the okay.

Companies will need to submit an application of sorts to the FDA to sell their imported formula in the U.S. and cannot begin doing so until the agency gives them the green light.

The first flights of imported formula from Europe as part of Operation Fly Formula arrived in the U.S. on May 22. This shipment contains specialized formula for children who have allergies.

In the meantime, the AAP has urged parents not to hoard formula, and to buy no more than 10-day to two-week supplies of formula "to help ease the impact of shortages."

Some major retailers, including Walgreens, Target, CVS, Walmart, Kroger and Costco, are now capping how much formula customers can buy. Check on those quotas with your local store before purchase if you're not sure.

It’s hard to consider using something new when you’ve already found a formula that works for you and your baby, but a little leeway is important in the face of a shortage.

Pediatricians recommend doing the following to help you find formula that works for your family:

In emergency situations where you can't find formula in stock, the AAP recommends the following:

In these situations, you should switch back to infant formula as soon as it's available. And when in doubt, place a call to the doctor's office. "We sometimes have formula samples we can give out, or we may know local stores that have formula in stock," Dr. Lockwood says.

If you're struggling to afford formula, your pediatrician can also help by recommending resources to help make it less expensive. You might qualify for benefits such as WIC, SNAP or TANF — programs that provide families with vouchers, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), or cash for buying formula.

Families that don't qualify for benefits may be able to access formula and other infant supplies through local food banks. Visit or call 211 to connect with a specialist for help. 

Here's some advice to heed during the current formula supply crisis to keep your baby safe and healthy.

Although you might come across homemade baby formula recipes online, it's never safe or recommended to give your baby one of these do-it-yourself concoctions.

Major medical organizations and regulating bodies agree that homemade formula comes with significant risks. While commercially manufactured formula is carefully designed to deliver the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats along with vitamins and minerals found in breast milk, homemade formula could give your baby too many or too few of certain nutrients.

What's more, homemade formula is not regulated by the FDA and increases the chance that an ingredient used could be contaminated, which could cause your baby to develop a serious foodborne illness.

Always mix powdered formula according to the manufacturer instructions and never dilute it. Watering down your baby's bottle could result in nutritional imbalances, which could lead to seizures.

Because infants have sensitive digestive systems, pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is 1 to introduce cow's milk. However, the AAP updated their guidance in May 2022 to say that whole cow's milk might be a temporary option in urgent situations for babies 6 months and older if you can't find formula during the shortage. The AAP stresses that while "not ideal," this is safer than offering diluted or homemade formula. You should switch back to formula as soon as it's available.

In an emergency, soy milk might be a temporary option for babies approaching 1, but you should consult your pediatrician for guidance, look for varieties that are fortified with protein and calcium, and switch back to formula as soon as it's available.

Almond milk, hemp milk and other nondairy varieties should still not be given to infants.

Always steer clear of buying formula from unknown online distributors, suppliers and auction sites like eBay and Craigslist, as there's no way of telling whether the seller's product is safe and sanitary (i.e. packaged and stored properly, no ingredients added, etc.), whether you're getting the actual product you think you're getting, or whether the distributor is reliable, reputable and above-board.

There have been reports of fake formula being sold online with phony labels that give inaccurate expiration dates, ingredients and nutritional information.

If you can’t find your regular formula, it’s tempting to look toward European baby formula and other imported infant formulas as a solution. But proceed with caution before doing so.

"Formulas overseas are held to different standards and are not FDA-approved," Dr. Lockwood points out. 

Internationally-made baby formulas also may not have been stored or shipped properly, the AAP notes, and up until recently, it has been illegal to import or sell formulas from overseas.

However, in May 2022, the FDA said it is easing its restrictions on imported formulas and paving the way for some reputable formulas made in Europe and other countries to sell their products in the U.S. to help ease the formula shortage. And the first shipments of imported formula from Europe as part of Operation Fly Formula started arriving in the U.S. in late May.

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