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Voice of the consumer: Baby formula shortage worrying parents, caregivers

11 Call For Action lead investigator Katie Pelton.
11 Call For Action lead investigator Katie Pelton.(KKTV)
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:22 AM MDT|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 1:49 PM MDT
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Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A nationwide baby formula shortage has sent parents and caregivers scrambling.

Many children, like Jim Ruwwe’s daughter, rely on special types of formula. “Everything has disappeared,” Ruwwe told me about his desperate search for the product. “We’ve looked in stores, online, we can’t find it anywhere.”

“We have a special needs daughter, who is 11, who has a very restrictive diet and she is unable to tolerate most of the formulas that are on the market,” Ruwwe added. “We’re getting down to about a four-week supply before we have to look at quite possibly admitting her into the hospital just so she can be fed.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed to me they are working to increase production and supply. The FDA said it is taking several steps to help with the shortage, including meeting with major manufacturers to increase production, expediting some changes that can help increase supply, particularly for specialized formulas for medical needs.

I also talked to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how long the problem could last.

“I don’t think it’s going to get worse; I don’t know how soon it’s going to get better, though. I think we’re going to be dealing with it for a little bit of time,” said Dr. Mark Corkins, the chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition.

I asked the AAP what parents can do in the meantime.

“Younger kids, the first six months for sure, you need to find a formula, you need to talk to your local WIC (Women, Infants and Children agency), talk to your pediatrician,” said Corkins. “You can get online and contact manufacturers and some of the reliable sources, you can contact them to purchase formula and have it sent to you.

“It depends on your age group and where your nutritional status is for your infant.”

The AAP recommends you talk with your pediatrician to see if they can get some from a representative or a local charity. You can also check with your local WIC office. Second, check smaller stores and drugstores, which may be in stock when larger stores are not. You can try to buy formula online from reputable sources. However, the AAP warns you should not import formula from overseas, since it’s not FDA-reviewed.

Some children may be able to switch to any formula available, although I know as a parent that many kids require or prefer a specific kind. The AAP said you should ask your pediatrician for recommendations for specialty formula alternatives.

The experts also recommend checking social media groups that are dedicated to infant feeding and formula to see if other members have ideas on where you can find it locally.

Finally, and this is important: The AAP said it is not safe to water down baby formula to try and stretch it out, because it can lead to serious health problems. Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

A lot of folks are wondering if they can make their own formula: The FDA and the AAP both advise against it. “It’s important to understand that only facilities experienced in and already making essentially complete-nutrition products are in the position to produce infant formula product that would not pose significant health risks to consumers,” the FDA said in a statement.

I reached out to the state of Colorado, and they told me many Colorado families, including about 60,000 on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children in Colorado are impacted by the shortage.

WIC provides food benefits during and after pregnancy, resources for both breastfeeding and formula feeding, and more. You can find out more information about WIC at ColoradoWIC.gov.

The federal government just launched a website to help families find baby formula at HHS.gov/formula. It has information including manufacturer hotline, community resources, and more. I put a link on KKTV.com; just click the red “Find It” tab.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.

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