Parenting can be stressful enough without worrying about how to feed the baby in the midst of a nationwide formula shortage.
In February, baby formula producer Abbott Nutrition had to recall three formulas due to a concern for bacterial contamination at a plant in Sturgis, Michigan. This led to the closure of the facility for several months, a halt in production of roughly 20% of all baby formula across the country and a decreasing supply of formula for countless families.
Although Abbott announced June 4 it had restarted production at the facility, locally, Ashland and Wayne County officials say they do not expect the problem to be resolved any time soon and hope the community can continue to help those affected by the shortage.
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How local families are getting help with the baby formula shortage
The three formulas recalled by Abbott included Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, which Rebekah Hilty, director of the Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County, said has mostly affected families who have babies with special dietary needs.
“Those are specifically designed for babies that are premature or have a vitamin deficiency … or there’s some sort of health need there and so their pediatricians want them specifically on that one,” Hilty said. “… When your baby can only have a specific formula, that’s when the panic starts to set in.”
Hilty said since the shortage began, more people in the county have been reaching out to the center for help, and they aren’t alone. Melanie Miller, executive director of the Ashland Pregnancy Care Center, said the agency even had a family in another state reach out and visit their center to get formula.
Several local grocery stores and pharmacies have gotten shipments over time, but some have put up signs asking patrons to limit the number of cans or bottles due to the shortage.
Both Hilty and Miller said increased donations to their centers have helped, and social media is being used to share information such as which stores have restocked or when they are getting a shipment.
“I really think it’s been neat,” Miller said. “Like, a network of moms have really tried to utilize social media and other ways to get communication out when they are seeing formula in stock at the stores, or somebody has something they’re trying to share that and get the word out helping one another.”
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Future of the formula shortage and what to do until it’s over
With up to an eight-week waiting period between production and getting baby formula on store shelves, Hilty figures the shortage will linger a while.
“The challenge is they’re gonna have to restock every single facility,” Hilty said. “…It could still be a couple of months before we really have a consistent ongoing steady supply of formula.”
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So, what are the alternatives for your baby? Physicians Kristin McClay and Brett Buller from Dunlap Family Physicians, who are also involved with Aultman Orrville Hospital Family Birth Center, have some recommendations for families.
- Talk with the baby’s pediatrician to discuss possible substitutions and other medical needs for the infant, keeping in mind any diet changes may upset a baby’s stomach.
- Look into local resources, such as the Wayne County WIC program, as well as national groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics for recommendations.
- Avoid making at-home formula recipes because they can sometimes lack certain nutrients which are needed for growth and brain development.
- Avoid diluting formula recipes with additional liquid or supplements because it can also affect the nutrients a baby needs.
- Keep alternative formula brands in mind, such as Walmart and Target, which are FDA approved, but verify with a pediatrician first.
- If interested in breast milk, parents can speak with lactation consultants at hospitals or get breast milk from donation banks like the one at Wooster Community Hospital.
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