For many parents, the baby formula shortage can be just plain scary. Even if you can find baby formula now, who's to say you'll be able to find it the next time you need it?
As your dedicated child healthcare provider, we'll do all we can to make sure you are equipped with everything you need to keep your baby safe and healthy.
After sifting through the news and information that's been circulating about the formula shortage, we've put together a list of options and resources to help you and your child until the store shelves are fully stocked once again.
SAFE BABY FORMULA OPTIONS
Based on information from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), you can pursue any of the following options when you can't find your child's brand of baby formula:
1. CHECK SMALLER STORES & DRUG STORES.
If the larger grocery stores or pharmacies you visit are out of baby formula, stop by the smaller stores and pharmacies around the Wilmington area.
2. OPT FOR AN ALTERNATIVE FORMULA BRAND.
Even a generic or store brand will work. Don't rule out formula produced by smaller manufacturers or organic formula options. For most infants, these lesser known brands are typically just fine – unless your child requires a particular extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula.
3. ALWAYS ASK YOUR PEDIATRICIAN BEFORE CHANGING YOUR BABY'S FEEDING PLAN.
Your Pediatrician will be happy to discuss with you the options that will work best for you and your child. And they will be able to tell you whether a particular formula option is safe and healthy for your child's unique health situation.
4. PURCHASE FORMULA ONLINE FROM WELL-KNOWN BRANDS.
That is, if you can afford it. Lately, we've seen online prices skyrocket. Make sure the brand you are purchasing from has a strong reputation.
5. JOIN LOCAL SOCIAL MEDIA GROUPS.
Wilmington families have already established a Facebook group – called Wilmington & Surrounding Area's Baby Formula Search – to share information about local and online sources of baby formula.
6. TURN TO COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS OR MANUFACTURERS.
Take advantage of United Way's 2-1-1 information and referral service to locate food pantries and charitable sources of formula in the area. You may even have some luck contacting baby formula manufacturers directly.
7. CONSIDER MORE FREQUENT BREASTFEEDING.
If your feeding plan includes a mix of breastfeeding and baby formula, consider increasing the frequency and proportion of breastfeeding in your baby's feeding plan – that is, after speaking with your Pediatrician, lactation consultant, and/or primary healthcare provider.
8. REPORT TOO-HIGH FORMULA COSTS.
If you notice ridiculously high infant formula prices, bring them to the attention of the North Carolina Department of Justice by submitting your complaint here or calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
9. APPLY FOR WIC ASSISTANCE.
If you need help managing the high formula costs, consider applying for assistance with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or FNS (formerly "food stamps").
10. BE AWARE OF UNSAFE BABY FORMULA OPTIONS
The NCDHHS and other reputable sources have also recommended avoiding certain formula alternatives that have arisen despite the potential health consequences.
- Do NOT water down baby formula to make it last longer. If you don't follow the label instructions (as well as Pediatrician-provided guidelines), the modified formula you use may not provide the nutrients your child needs for healthy development.
- Do NOT use homemade baby formula. It may not include the nutrients vital to infant growth.
- Do NOT use toddler formula before your child turns 1-year-old.
- Do NOT use plant-based formula.
- Do NOT buy formula from another country. Other countries won't necessarily have the same health standards as the U.S.
- Do NOT purchase formulas from unknown sellers. This is especially a concern for online transactions. More and more North Carolina families are falling for scams, through which scammers are "selling" fake baby formula online just to make a little extra cash.
11. AVOID BABY FORMULA SCAMS
Here are some steps you can take to avoid falling victim to a baby formula scam:
- Investigate the seller and manufacturer before you buy. To determine which suppliers are trustworthy, check with the Better Business Bureau or call the North Carolina Department of Justice at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
- Use a credit card for online formula purchases. That way, you have the necessary evidence if you need to make a dispute.
- Stay on-guard for scammers pretending to be government agencies. Scammers have been calling families to "collect recalled baby formula." This is not how recalls work. If you're concerned that your formula has been recalled, check the manufacturer's website. If the product has been recalled, simply take it back to the store.
WHY IS THERE A BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE, ANYWAY?
Like many other industries, the baby formula industry faced supply chain challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, in February 2022, there was a recall on certain Abbott infant formulas. Not only did this wipe out many of the baby formula options on the shelves, but it significantly increased demand for other brands of baby formula, only deepening the pandemic's impact across the U.S.
NEED TO DISCUSS YOUR BABY'S FEEDING PLAN?
Schedule an appointment with your family pediatrician. The Carolina Pediatrics team is eager to help you and your family in any way possible during this challenging time.