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Oklahoma health officials, infant service providers offer advice for families affected by baby formula shortage

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Ajay Suresh / Flickr
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As the shortage worsens, local health officials and infant services providers are urging Oklahomans not to water down their babies’ formula or make their own.

Julia Nored works for Infant Crisis Services in Oklahoma City. The nonprofit provides food, diapers and other necessities for children under 3. She said as of now, they still have the supply of formula they need to help parents in the city and in the 18 counties they serve with mobile units.

“But everything kind of, you know, it's exploding this week,” she said. “So we aren't quite sure what the future is going to hold.”

Like many other goods and services, baby formula got harder to find during the pandemic because of supply chain issues. Then, a major manufacturer — Abbott Nutrition — had a bacterial outbreak, so it shut down a major production facility in Michigan and issued a massive recall in late February.

Now, NPR reports, retailers across the country are reporting a 43% out-of-stock rate of the product.

The pressure has been building throughout the spring, but like Nored says, it came to a head this week. White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a briefing on Thursday the issue stems from hoarding — both by fearful parents and by people who want to profit off of them. Psaki also said the administration is working with food and drug regulators to find ways to fight the shortage.

Nored said there are a host of reasons parents rely on formula. Some are more obvious. For example, adoptive and foster parents usually can’t breastfeed. Some babies who were born prematurely often rely on special formula that helps them catch up on growing. Some babies have allergies that make them react poorly to breast milk.

For some families, breastfeeding just doesn’t work out.

Infant Crisis Services has been advising parents on what to do in the meantime.

Nored said one of the organization’s gravest concerns is parents will either water down the formula to make it last longer or attempt to make their own.

“Babies are going to be missing out on nutrients, and it can affect their long term growth,” she said. “And in extreme cases, it can even cause seizures.”

The State Department of Health also provided written guidance for parents.

Do:

  • See if alternate formulations are available — powder, concentrate, or ready-to-feed products
  • Shop around at a variety of stores, including grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Check with pediatrician about formula samples
  • Talk to pediatrician about how to transition from current formula to a new formula
  • Store brands and other US formula products are safe
  • Buy store brands if name brands aren’t available
  • Purchase from reputable formula supplier
  • Visit this searchable site to locate infant formula resources near you 
  • Check with donor milk banks
  • Contact lactation consultant about relactating or increasing milk supply. Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline: 1-877-271-6455

Don’t:

  • Don’t use cow’s, goat’s or plant-based milks
  • Don’t dilute formula or put infant food in the bottle
  • Don’t make homemade baby formula
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