Ongoing supply chain disruptions of baby formula, combined with a recent safety recall, has led to a national shortage. As a result, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital is getting numerous phone calls from distressed parents looking at empty shelves.
“We’re here for parents because we realize the incredible stress this must have on our formula-fed families and even our breastfeeding families, because they believe they could always go to formula if they had to,” said Jill Cioffi, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics, medical director of Ambulatory Primary Care Pediatrics in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “This situation is stressful for all parents.”
Dr. Cioffi expressed concern that due to recent media reports indicating pediatricians might have brand-name samples to hand out, her office has been getting requests from parents. Like most academic institutions, Stony Brook Children’s doesn’t stock formula, she said.
“We don’t have samples to give away. It can expire, and we don’t want to endorse any brands. But even private pediatric practices are going to run out, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big resource for families.”
Dr. Cioffi does encourage parents of Stony Brook Children’s patients to reach out for guidance if their child is on a formula that’s been specifically recommended or prescribed by the physician.
“There are children who are not on regular milk-based formula for various medical reasons, and it’s those parents who are going to need medical help finding adequate substitutions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Cioffi emphasized that parents follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
- Don’t dilute formula. “If you’re using powder or you’re buying pre-made, you definitely do not want to water it down. It’s nutritionally balanced and it’s not volume that counts with kids, it’s the calories. Watering it down is not medically sound.”
- Only buy formula from reputable sources. “We want to reinforce that parents should not buy formula in parking lots or any place that does not seem on the up and up because there are recalled formulas that we’re not a hundred percent sure are completely disposed of and there are also expired formulas,” Dr. Cioffi said.
- Don’t try to find a recipe to make formula. “You can’t make it from the ingredients that are currently on the market,” she said. “We recommend whole cow’s milk (that you buy in cartons), but not until at least 11 months of age.”
- Don’t give your baby alternative milk products. The AAP said these are not recommended for infants under a year of age. Be especially careful to avoid almond or other plant milks as these are often low in protein and minerals.
- Don’t give your baby toddler formula. It’s not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies close to a year of age.
- Note the shelf-life of baby formula in the stores. The “use by” date on infant formula is required by FDA regulations to be on each container. Up until that date, the formula will contain no less than the amount of each nutrient on the product label and will otherwise be of acceptable quality.
“My hope is that this is addressed on a federal level,” Dr. Cioffi said. “But in the meantime, we’re gathering as many resources as we can find for our patients.”
There’s also this Store Brand Infant Formula Quick Guide, created by Power in Changing.