National Baby Formula Shortage Impacts the Coachella Valley

Carmela Karcher

The national baby formula shortage is getting worse.

It can even be seen here in the desert with empty shelves or lack of options at many pharmacies and grocery stores.

The reason is due to a recall at an Abbott Nutrition facility that took away three popular brands of powdered baby formula.

Now, parents are desperate.

“There’s concern about it so people are buying in bulk more than they need so that’s also decreasing the supply for a lot of parents,” Dr. Ashley Zerr, a pediatrician at Desert Regional Medical Center, said.

But, Dr. Zerr says while it is challenging to find an alternative, there are other options, especially for women who have a hard time breastfeeding.

“We very much support breastfeeding if that is a possibility for parents,” she continued. “We also have a Healthy Beginnings team here which helps with lactation. There are some other options, like the local Wic office is a great resource to try to call. Sometimes food banks will also have that. A lot of the formula companies will offer samples to pediatrician offices so if you’re really struggling and you don’t have any other options, give your local pediatrician a call.”

But is it safe to switch formulas?

“A lot of the formula’s composition of them is very similar so as long as it’s a term formula for babies, it’s normally okay just to switch. It’s better for them to be fed than to go hungry on a different formula,” Dr. Zerr explained.

Especially now, Dr. Zerr emphasized the importance of not diluting the formula with water.

“That could be really harmful for children for a couple of reasons,” she said. “First is that it doesn’t have the appropriate protein and concentration for the electrolytes so the baby won’t be getting enough calories. The other thing is that it does change the electrolytes the baby receives. If we are adding more water to the formula, there is a chance of medical complications and some even include seizures.”

“There are options out there, so don’t panic,” Dr. Zerr continued. “If you’re in this situation, there are people here who are willing to help.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends buying only a 10 to 14-day supply, especially now.

That way there can be enough to go around to other families in need.

Abbott announced the company could restart the site in two weeks, but it could be another six to eight weeks before the product is available in stores.

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