UTAH (ABC4) – The White House and the FDA are under scrutiny from both political parties — with accusations that more needs to be done about the national baby formula shortage. The White House responded saying they are working on importing more supply, cracking down on price gouging and consumer hoarding.
Store shelves from coast to coast show about 40 percent of formula is out of stock. And here in Utah, the struggle is impacting parents and newborns. Supply chain issues, combined with a safety recall of several major brands of powdered baby formula, has caused many supermarket shelves to look empty.
This has been a struggle for many parents – like Nichole Jackson, a mother from St. George, who recently had twins in February. She is one of many parents having to navigate around the baby formula shortage.
“The shortage, it’s been such a stress because when you have two babies that are needing nutritional needs and not being able to make it, it’s just hard to not worry about that,” said Jackson.
Breastfeeding isn’t always an option — Ellie Brownstein, a pediatrician and VP for the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “We have some moms who try as they might, and can’t breastfeed.”
Jackson started by breastfeeding her children, but later was unable to provide as much milk as they needed and had to start using formula.
“Our daughter was hospitalized in March and that stress and anxiety just plummeted my supply and I’ve been unable to get it back up to where I need to be since then,” she said.
Jackson couldn’t find the specific formula her twins needed in the stores, but was able to order it online. However, soon that was a challenge as well.
“When I went to order some more, it became apparent that this was going to go on a lot longer. It said it was out of stock and didn’t know when or if it would be available so that’s kind of when the panic set in,” she said.
Although it’s been a difficult time, Jackson says one big help has been the community – both in Utah and other states.
“Family, friends, and even strangers that I don’t even know have been able to find formula and are just on the lookout for it,” she said.
Here are some recommendations health experts are giving to parents during the shortage:
“We don’t want anybody to add extra water, we don’t want people using homemade stuff because it can actually be dangerous in some cases,” said Brownstein.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that cow’s milk can be a temporary alternative for children closer to a year in age for a short period of time.
Brownstein advises against some other types of milk, like plant-based and goat milk.
“Most of those do not have the proper nutrients for kids, some of them, for example, goat milk is deficient in folate and we see a folic acid deficiency. Plant-based milks are probably gonna be low in protein and some of them are low in fat,” she said.
Brownstein also says most children are able to change brands okay, but if you need a specialty brand, reach out to your pediatrician to see what options they have available – and that it’s always a good idea to check with your pediatrician before making changes with your child’s diet.
Brownstein also recommends checking smaller stores that you wouldn’t normally think of, as they may not be out of supply when larger stores are.