The company at the center of the national infant formula shortage has announced plans to restart its troubled Michigan plant, raising hopes that the formula crisis could soon end. But it could be as long as two months before parents see store shelves restocked with formula products, Abbott Nutrition said.
Abbott, the largest baby formula manufacturer in the country, closed its factory in Sturgis, Michigan, in February amid fears that products from the plant had resulted in two infant deaths. Now, nearly 40% of formula brands are out of stock. Some of Abbott’s most notable brands include Similac, Pediasure, Pedialyte, and EleCare.
Some retailers have limited how much formula a person can buy. CVS Pharmacy, for example, is allowing customers to purchase no more than three cans per visit.
The Biden administration has announced a series of actions to address the shortage, such as importing formula brands from overseas, targeting price gouging and working to expand the types of formulas that WIC recipients can select. But those measures won’t completely cure the problem and doctors advise parents not to make their own formula.
Capital B Atanta spoke with experts for tips and resources to keep your baby fed during the shortage.
Many food and baby supply banks have been affected by the nationwide shortage, but they’re still accepting donations. Parents can contact banks or follow their websites and social media accounts to stay up-to-date when they restock.
At Helping Mamas, a nonprofit baby supply bank based in Norcross, Executive Director Jamie Lackey said the organization will post information on its website about pop-up distribution events once they restock. She also suggests following your local food bank’s social media accounts to see when they’ll stock up.
Tender ATL, an organization that helps single moms in metro Atlanta, also is accepting donations. People looking for formula and other assistance can send a request through its website. Requests for the month of May are closed, but will reopen on June 1, according to the website.
Other organizations that stock formula include the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Georgia Food Bank Association, and Wild Birth Partum Care, a pregnancy resource center in Jonesboro.
Local parents also are posting information about where they’ve spotted formula in a Facebook group called Metro Atlanta Infant Shortage Responses, started by Breastfeed Atlanta Executive Director Christie Coursey.
Pediatricians and doulas
Doctor’s offices often receive formula samples, so check if your baby’s pediatrician has some on hand. If not, the staff may be able to connect you with resources to find baby formula. If you have an older infant, they can help you transition your child to solid foods or cow’s milk.
If you were under the care of a doula, they also might be able to help you connect with organizations that have a supply.
Women, Infants, and Children benefits
The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federal benefits program for low-income moms and infants, provides funding to purchase certain foods and other nutritional needs at specified retailers. A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Health, which runs the state’s WIC program, said the office may be able to help WIC recipients get formula “to some extent.”
“As WIC is made aware of participants that are not able to obtain a specific formula through the local WIC-approved grocers, we work with the local agency, local grocers/retailers, and the formula manufacturers to find a solution,” said Nancy Nydam, a spokesperson for the GDPH.
In a press release distributed Tuesday, DPH said that “WIC clients who need help finding formula or who have questions should contact their local WIC office or call 1-800-228-9173.”
Black parents are 2.5 times less likely to breastfeed than their white counterparts. A lack of breastfeeding support at their jobs and other barriers make Black parents more reliant on formula.
“It’s really difficult to breastfeed if you’re working a low-wage, hourly job, where there’s not a good environment for you to be able to pump and breastfeed and take those breaks,” Lackey said.
A breastfeeding consultant can help new parents get started if they can produce milk. If you already breastfeed, there are resources to get support to increase your supply. Breastfeed Atlanta, which provides healthcare services for people who breastfeed, allows parents to rent pumps and talk to lactation specialists.
If you’ve stopped breastfeeding, it’s often extremely difficult to go back. Talk to your pediatrician or doula about whether it’s possible to start relactation, a physically demanding process that takes a great deal of time and resources. Ability to restart depends on several factors, such as how long it’s been since you last breastfed and your baby’s age. The younger your baby, the more likely they are to restart breastfeeding.
Don’t make your own formula
The American Pediatrics Association strongly advises against homemade baby formula, even if recipes might seem healthy or cheaper. Infants need specific types of nutrition that any homemade formula likely won’t contain, which could leave your baby malnourished.
Parents also should shy away from substitutes, like cow’s milk or goat milk, unless your toddler is the right age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a child can start drinking plain cow’s milk at around 1 year old, and it should always be whole milk until their second birthday.
You can also try switching your baby’s formula if the formula you use is out of stock. In most cases, switching formulas isn’t harmful, but the CDC suggests consulting with your child’s pediatrician before switching formulas.