A national shortage of baby formula has families worrying about how they will feed their infant children, and relief from the short supplies and hiked up prices could take weeks to arrive.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden invoked the the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production of baby formula and launched a plan to fly formula in from abroad.
Congress passed the bipartisan Access to Baby Formula Act, which would allow low-income families to buy infant formula with their federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits during a crisis, such as a supply chain disruption.
Another bill, which would provide $28 million in emergency supplemental appropriations to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to increase inspection staff and generally deal with addressing the shortage, passed the House and is now in the Senate.
The baby formula shortage has been in the making for months, exacerbated by a recall that shutdown Abbott Laboratories manufacturing plant in Michigan after concerns about contaminated formula. The company reached an agreement with the FDA to reopen the Michigan factory provided the plant meets certain safety guidelines. But even with that agreement in hand, Abbott said in a statement it "will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves."
As of May 8, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula in Wisconsin was 43%, 44% in Milwaukee, and 45% nationwide, according to data from the data analytics firm Datasembly.
As a result, the state Department of Health Services and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued several key recommendations.
Formula usage and alternative milks:
Do not water down or dilute baby formula to stretch it out. Doing so would not give babies all the nutrients they need.
Do not make homemade formulas, as they can be unsafe and not meet the baby's needs.
Avoid giving babies cow milk, goat milk or plant-based milk until they're at least a year old. These milks lack minerals babies need and can also cause digestive issues.
Cow's milk can be given to infants who are older than six months and are usually on regular formula only in rare emergency situations and for no longer than a week. Talk to your child's doctor first.
It's likely that babies will do fine with different baby formulas as long as they're the same type. To switch, gradually introduce small amounts of the new formula with mixed with the usual one, and slowly increase the amount of the new one. Be patient, and call your pediatrician if the baby isn't tolerating the new formula.
It is not recommended to substitute toddler formula for infant formula. But for infants close to who are close to a year old, the products can be safe for just a few days, and only if there is absolutely no other choice.
Full-term babies can safely have formula designed for premature babies for a few weeks, but only if nothing else is available.
It is not recommended to give babies under 6 months old solid food to stretch infant formula.
Generally, formula should not be used past the "best by" date because it may no longer be safe or have the required levels of nutrients.
Finding formula in stores:
Check smaller stores and drug stores.
Search for stock information online before going to the store.
Check food pantries and other charitable organizations.
Check Wisconsin WIC clinics that can help connect you to a charitable organization and other resources, check on supplies, and get formula alternatives.
Avoid stockpiling so more families can access formula until supplies stabilize. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises buying no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula to ease shortages.
Work with a health care professionals to make urgent requests for products through Abbott.
Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.
How to check if your formula was recalled:
Check the lot code, a multidigit number on the bottom of containers of Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered infant formula, and do not use if:
the first two digits of the code are 22 through 37; and
the code on the container contains K8, SH or Z2; and
the expiration date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later.
In addition, Abbott Nutrition recalled Similac PM 60/40 with the following lot codes:
Families can also check their lot numbers on the Abbott website.
Breastmilk donations: Mothers' Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.
Wisconsin WIC breastfeeding support information.
List of comparable formulas from the North American Society For Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Gerber's MyGerber Baby Expert: reach a certified nutrition or lactation consultant by phone, text, Facebook Messenger, web chat, or video call, who can help you identify a similar formula that may be more readily available.
United Way's IMPACT 211 helpline: Call 211 or 414-773-0211.
Resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
USA TODAY contributed to this story.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin formula shortage: Key tips from health professionals