Missouri health officials, pediatricians ask parents to use caution as nationwide infant formula shortages continue

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – As the nationwide infant formula shortage continues to affect parents and caregivers, state health officials and pediatricians urge Missourians to know the dos and don’ts of infant formula use and refrain from hoarding supply. The formula shortage, which began as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic supply chain challenges, continues today and is exacerbated by the recalls that occurred in February 2022.

“The combined shortage and product recall have created anxiety among infant parents and caregivers,” said Paula Nickelson, Acting Director, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). “What often happens in these situations is that parents find alternative methods for feeding, and for infants, this could be dangerous and should be done in consultation with the child’s health care provider. We understand that manufacturers are doing everything they can to increase availability of formulas, and they are working closely with the FDA to ensure these products return to shelves to meet the current demand.”

Missourians are urged to follow these tips and consult their pediatrician with questions or concerns specific to their baby’s formula needs.

“Many different brands of infant formulas are FDA-regulated and are safe to use for most babies. Call your pediatrician or primary care provider if you have any questions,” said Dr. Maya Moody, President-Elect, Missouri Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. “Always mix the formula as instructed on the can or bottle, and never add extra water to dilute the formula.” 

Missouri WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is administered by DHSS, and the program’s participants are some of those who have been greatly impacted by the formula shortage and recalls. Missouri WIC offers the following list of do’s and don’ts for all parents and caregivers.

DO:

· Do feed your baby over 6 months old more baby food and less formula. A great resource, Food to Grow On: Birth to 12 months, provides a guide to the nutritional intake needed by babies during their first year of life.

· Do wean your babies over 12 months old off formula. After their first birthday, babies no longer need formula to meet their nutritional needs. Caregivers can wean the baby using water, milk and food.

· Do consider relactation. It is possible, with some effort, for women to relactate even if they did not breastfeed when their baby was born or were not able to for long. Contact a local IBCLC to help if you want to try to relactate.

· Do search for formula at multiple stores in your area. Check the customer service desk at the store to see if they are keeping any there. Call a store before making the trip to check their supply or ask when the next supply truck arrives.

· Do tell friends and family the brand and type of formula you use and ask them to pick it up for you if they see it in a store while shopping.

· Do call your pediatrician if you run low and ask for guidance. They will be able to give you guidance on a safe formula switch or may even have samples to help you for a few days.

DON’T:

· Don’t hoard formula. Only keep a monthly supply, at the most, to give other caregivers the opportunity to find formula. Hoarding is making the shortage worse!

· Don’t make homemade formula. Without proper regulation, homemade infant formula may lack proper ingredients that are vital to infant growth and can cause life-threatening foodborne illnesses when consumed. There are many social media conversations about how homemade formula was used a long time ago and babies were just fine. They weren’t just fine. Babies died before commercial formula was widely available. The infant mortality rates were higher and babies were malnourished. Don’t make homemade formula.

· Don’t dilute (water down) your baby’s formula to make it last longer. Your baby needs the full formula for proper nutrition and growth.

· Don’t follow online advice except from trusted, expert sources. Your baby’s health and nutrition is too important to risk!

· Don’t give cow’s milk or other milk substitutes to a baby under one year of age. Before your child is 12 months old, cow’s or goat’s milk may put him or her at risk for intestinal bleeding. It also has too many proteins and minerals for your baby’s kidneys to handle and does not have the right amount of nutrients for your baby.

The FDA shares additional infant formula safety tips here

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