With the ongoing infant formula shortage, many families either have limited options or continue to see low stock or empty shelves when searching for formula. Johns Hopkins All Children’s experts encourage parents not to panic but to research and plan ahead, when possible.
“We know this has been concerning for many families, but it’s important to know there are options and different brands with similar ingredients you can look into,” says Melanie Newkirk, dietitian and director for Nutritional Services at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “Most importantly, if you are having trouble finding formula, it’s important to speak with your doctor to see if they can offer an alternative.”
While alternatives may be available, experts like Rachel Dawkins, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, say watering down formula should not be one of those options.
“Adding more water to the formula to make their supply last longer could cause serious illness or even seizures, and is something parents absolutely need to avoid,” Dawkins says.
Even more concerning for Dawkins and other physicians, is hearing about families attempting to make their own formula at home — a practice that is not safe.
“Homemade formula recipes circulating the internet can be dangerous because they are not regulated by the FDA,” says Dawkins. “Formulas also need to have appropriate and accurate amounts of nutrients, including calcium.” The FDA has stated that nutritional imbalances as well as bacteria contamination may occur when preparing homemade infant formulas.
Nakiya Showell, M.D., M.H.S., M.P.H., pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, also advises to check other shopping options than you may usually use.
“When searching for formula, be sure to check online, smaller stores and pharmacies as these may be more likely to have formula in stock, compared to larger stores,” says Showell. “If buying online though, be sure to purchase formulas in tamper-proof sealed containers from established retailors, groceries and pharmacies (i.e. Target, Giant, Walgreens, etc.) rather than individuals or online auction sites. While it may be tempting to stockpile formula that you find, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends buying no more than a 10-day to two-week supply to reduce the impact of shortages.”
Our experts continue to offer tips and reminders for families during this time, as well as things to keep in mind when it comes to formula and safety:
- Consider switching brands of formula (even to generic or store brands that have similar ingredients)
- Speak to your baby’s pediatrician about your options, including if they have formula
- Wash your hands before preparing formula and keep it away from other food/drink
- Properly clean/sanitize feeding items like bottles, nipples, rings and caps
- Buy a two-week supply of formula (overbuying in some areas is impacting the supply locally)
- Check smaller stores for formula, instead of the big box stores
- Don’t use expired formula
- Don’t water down formula
- Don’t freeze formula
- Don’t attempt to make homemade formula
- Don’t buy formula manufactured outside of the United States, unless it has been federally verified and meets FDA-issued safety and production standards
Be sure to talk to your pediatrician should you have any questions about your baby’s nutrition plan including the selection of safe and available feeding alternatives.