Shortage of infant formula: what to do if you are affected?

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For immediate release: May 18, 2022 (22-070)

Communications DOH: 360-549-6471

Resources for families and caregivers

OLYMPIA – The nationwide shortage of infant formula has caused stress for many families. The Washington State Department of Health has compiled resources to help families find nutritionally appropriate foods for their babies. The information below comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington WIC Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and State Food and Drug Administration -United.

Although the shortage has persisted since the pandemic, it has worsened due to supply chain issues, the recall in February of several infant formulas due to possible contamination and the voluntary closure of a facility in Michigan by Abbott Laboratories – the largest manufacturer of infant formula. Although Abbott has reached an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the steps needed to restart production, it will still be weeks before formula products from this facility become available to the public.

If you’re having trouble finding formula and are worried about your child’s nutrition, your first step is to check out the links and resources provided for accurate information. If you still have concerns about your child’s health, contact your child’s primary care provider’s office and ask to speak to a nurse, physician assistant or health educator on your child’s healthcare team.

“Your child’s doctor and healthcare team are an excellent source of information for any concerns about your baby’s health and nutrition,” says Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, Scientific Director of the Department of Health of the State of Washington. “They may be able to make recommendations on switching to an easier-to-find formula or give advice on where to go when your usual sources of formula are out of stock.”

For people who need to be connected to health care providers, call the Help Me Grow WA hotline at 1-800-322-2588 for referrals and to request food and health resources in Washington. Additional support and resources are also available for participants in federal and state nutrition programs.

For WIC participants and families, contact your local WIC clinic to have infant formula benefits replaced or baby formula changed. WIC has expanded the types of plans they offer to provide more choices for families participating in the program. They can often tell you which stores have formula in stock. If you cannot reach your local clinic, call the state WIC office at 1-800-841-1410 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See the Washington WIC web page for more information on approved replacement infant formulas.

For Basic Food (SNAP) participants, visit the Parenthelp123 web page or call 1-800-322-2588.

In this emergency, the AAP says it’s okay for most babies to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific, extensively hydrolyzed formula. or based on amino acids for certain medical conditions. Contact your child’s primary care provider to inquire about alternatives to specialty formulas.

While it can be tempting to try making homemade formula, the AAP cautions against doing so, as formula recipes might not contain enough vital nutrients or might contain too much salt or other ingredients. items that could be harmful to your baby.

Additionally, at the request of the FDA, Abbott is releasing limited quantities of metabolic nutritional formulas that were previously on hold following Abbott’s recall of certain powdered infant formula from its Sturgis, Michigan facility. These products have been tested, are safe for distribution and were not included in the recall. These products also require a medical recommendation. Patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals requiring these products should contact Abbott at +1-800-881-0876 to provide the necessary information.

If you think you have a recalled form on hand, you can check which forms are recalled at Washington WIC.

Some additional tips to help you in your search for infant formula:

  • Check small stores and pharmacies or buy online from reputable distributors and pharmacies.
  • Contact the manufacturers directly:
    • Gerber MyGerber Baby Expert Contact a Certified Nutrition or Lactation Consultant by phone, text, Facebook Messenger, web chat, or video call, who can help identify a similar formula that may be more readily available
    • Abbott Consumer Helpline: Call 1-800-986-8540
    • Abbott is urgent product request line exit warning icon: ask your gynecologist or your baby’s pediatrician to make an urgent request for the product by download and complete the form – PDF exit warning icon
    • Mead Johnson/Reckitt Customer Service: Call 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)
  • Check out community resources:
    • Locate your nearest Community Action Agency (CAA). Your local CAA may be able to provide you with formula or put you in touch with local agencies that have formula in stock.
    • United Way 2-1-1: Dial 2-1-1 to be connected with a United Way-affiliated Community Resource Specialist who may be able to help you identify food pantries and other local charitable sources of infant formula and baby food .
    • Feed America: Call your local food bank to find out if they have formula and other supplies in stock.
    • Association of Human Milk Banks of North America (HMBANA): Some milk banks accredited by HMBANA distribute donated breast milk to mothers in need; please note that some may require a prescription from a healthcare professional. Find a HMBANA-licensed milk bank.

Relationship or induced lactation is also possible and can be an alternative to using a formula, but it takes time and effort. La Leche League International has resources on how to stimulate milk production.

“No family should be in a position where they worry about how they’re going to feed their children,” Kwan-Gett says. “We must prioritize food security so that every family can be sure that their child is receiving nutrition for optimal growth and development.

Please visit the new DOH nutrition guidance resource page for more information on what to do and what steps to take that are safe for your child.

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