As of yesterday, Abbott and the Food and Drug Administration have reached a consent decree that will allow the plant to potentially reopen in two weeks. However, it will take much longer for store shelves to start seeing products. This leaves parents desperate to find ways to feed their children in the interim. 

Unfortunately, the shortage has already led many to social media where DIY formula recipes are being circulated. We spoke with Dr. David Gray, pediatrician and the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer for Covenant Children's Hospital, about the repercussions of this seemingly helpful advice. 

Homemade Infant Formula is Never a Safe Option

“Breastmilk is a remarkably complicated nutritional source. Manufacturers have been trying to replicate breastmilk for decades and they haven't been able to do that. There is no safe kitchen concoction that even comes close to formula, much less to breastmilk,” Gray stated.

While many parents may argue that they are adding the necessary ingredients and that the most important thing is that they are feeding their baby, Dr. Gray goes on to note that there is a reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents give breastmilk or formula as a baby’s primary form of nutrition for the first full year of their life. 

Photo by Jaye Haych on Unsplash

“Is there enough iron in it? Is there enough folate? Is there enough calcium? Is there enough free water in it? Is the right amount of sodium in there? If you have too much or too little of those things, you can cause significant medical problems that may not show up for an extended period of time.”

He also states that there are a lot of things that a brain needs in the first few months of life to properly develop. Homemade formulations will never come close to providing these nutrients and the developmental impacts can have lifelong repercussions. So what is a parent to do?

Potential Solutions for Fearful Parents

Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash

First, Dr. Gray advises that women who are about to give birth genuinely consider breastfeeding. Covenant Children’s has an amazing team of lactation specialists who strive to help new moms navigate this task and overcome obstacles along the way. They even offer free classes for expectant moms! I also spoke with Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, RNC, and Advanced Practice RN Angela Westfall about the best ways to find success in this venture. 

Second, for those who cannot breastfeed, reach out to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America about where to find screened, tested, and pasteurized human breast milk in the region. “That's the best solution to the current formula shortage,” Dr. Gray stated. “Short of that, it's time to think beyond the grocery stores.” 

He notes that drug stores can be a great resource and that struggling parents should also reach out to their pediatricians for advice. The South Plains Food Bank is another amazing resource here in the Hub City. Their C.A.R.E Unit staff can let you know what is required in order to receive the formula. Right now their quantities are low so make sure to call ahead to see if they have any available.

Baby Formula
Photo Credit: Heidi Kaye, Townsquare Media

Another piece of advice – don’t be afraid to try different formulas on the market. While there will be a short transition period for your child, unless they require a special formula, there is no harm in trying different products. 

What Not To Do

Besides avoiding homemade formulas, Covenant Children’s also wants to remind parents to never dilute formulas to make it last longer. This can have dangerous side effects. Moreover, toddler formulas are not the same as infant varieties so they will be a safe substitute. This also goes for milk products like cow’s and goat’s milk as well as almond and oat milk. 

Finally, we all need to feed our babies. Remember that while this is an extremely difficult time for Lubbock parents, it is important to not be greedy. Try to only purchase what you need and avoid hoarding. This takes food away from other families. As mentioned, there is hope on the horizon with Abbott reopening its doors soon. We just have to be patient and work together to find safe solutions for our babies.

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