If you have an infant who drinks formula, there’s no doubt you have encountered the current formula shortage we are experiencing. Formula availability is down about 40% in the United States right now. The CDC was informed of four cases, two which resulted in death, from a bacterial infection due to formula made by Abbott Labs (makers of Similac) between September of 2021 and January of 2022. In February, Abbott recalled their Similac products and closed one of their factories in Michigan. This, along with supply chain issues, has led to the shortage.
We have been receiving multiple calls at South Lake about what to do for babies in the face of this shortage. Hopefully some of these tips will help.
Most formulas are interchangeable. As a pediatrician, I am not concerned if you have to switch between Similac, Enfamil, Costco, or any other generic brand. A lot of babies end up on formulas early on in life for gas or reflux. Often, these problems resolve and a standard formula will work just fine if you try it again. If your baby has a milk protein allergy or other genetic condition, you will be more limited on your options. Try checking smaller drug or grocery stores for availability of any formula.
We keep babies on formula up until a year of age to make sure they get enough nutrients, especially iron. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has said that if your baby is over six months of age, briefly using cow’s milk to cover a short gap while awaiting formula is ok. You will want to make sure that your baby is getting enough iron supplementation while drinking cow’s milk and will want to stay under 24 ounces of milk a day. Plant based milks are not recommended. If your baby is close to a year, toddler formula can also briefly replace infant formula. Switch back to using formula once it becomes available to you.
There are a couple of things to avoid. Do not add extra water to your formula to make it last longer. This leads to a calorie deficit and, more importantly, can lead to an electrolyte imbalance in your baby that can cause seizures. We also recommend avoiding making your own formula.
Please use this link that shows equivalent formulas in alternative brands. If you have additional questions, reach out to South Lake Pediatrics and we will try to help!
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