By Dennis Thompson Health Day Reporter
MONDAY, May 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A national infant formula shortage continues in the United States, with desperate parents scouring shelves for food for their infants.
Millions of babies depend on formula, the only recommended source of nutrition for infants who are not exclusively breastfed.
Two leading pediatricians have advice for parents struggling to find formula, offering a list of do’s and don’ts:
The shortages are caused in part by supply chain issues, and pediatricians fear worried parents are making the situation worse by hoarding whatever they find on the shelves.
“I asked a mom today, ‘If you saw three cans on the shelf, what would you do? Would you buy two and leave one or take all three?'” said Dr. Richard So, pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s. . “I think the answer should be, take two and leave one for the next mom.”
Chicago pediatrician Dr. Joshua Wechsler agreed.
“You’re really hurting someone else in the process when you hoard. I know it’s hard to tell someone because when you’re desperate to feed your kids and you have the resources, you’re going to go out and buy what you can,” said Wechsler, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University School of Medicine and medical director of the eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease program at Children’s Hospital Chicago.
Consider generic or private label formulas.
You may not be able to find your exact brand of formula in the store or online, but by reading the labels of generic or store brand options, you may be able to purchase essentially the same thing you fed your child. , said So.
“Whether it’s Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, these are just as good as your branded formulas,” So said.
However, talk to your pediatrician before substituting, if your option is very different from what you normally feed.
“If a parent is having trouble feeding, call your pediatrician for the best options,” So said. “For example, if someone is taking a milk-based formula, soy would be OK if that’s what they saw. Or if all they saw was a lactose-free formula, they could try that, buy a box of that, and it’s not going to hurt the baby.”
A discussion with your pediatrician will be especially important if your child has specific nutritional needs or if the alternative formula you’re considering is designed for a baby with specific needs, Wechsler said.
“Sometimes not all babies will tolerate a simple switch to any formula,” Wechsler said. “It’s really more of a concern if you’re giving your kids a formula that’s more broken down in terms of protein – not whole, intact protein, more like chopped peptides or even in some cases amino acids – or if they’re using a formula soy-based and switching to something that is now more milk-based whole protein.”
Don’t make your own formula.
The internet is flooded with DIY emergency formula recipes. Wechsler and So recommended against using either of them.
Babies can develop electrolyte imbalances, nutritional deficiencies and weight loss if your homemade formula is slightly off, pediatricians said.
In the same way, you don’t have to dilute the formula you have to make it stretch. The risks are similar to those of homemade preparations: electrolyte imbalances and weight loss.
“The longer you prolong weight loss, the more it limits growth, and ultimately if it goes on for a while it can affect brain development,” Wechsler said.
Whole cow’s milk, 2% milk or skim milk should not be substituted for infant formula, or mixed into formula to make it last longer, Wechsler said.
“The formula is complete nutrition, similar to what you get from breast milk,” Wechsler said. “Cow’s milk is actually lacking in certain things and can affect the bioavailability of certain minerals. You can end up with things like iron deficiency by feeding too much cow’s milk before 12 months.”
The same goes for goat’s milk, almond milk, and oat milk, so to speak.
“These are all for ages 1 and up,” So said.
Do not use toddler formula as a substitute for formula.
“Toddler formula is different from baby formula,” So said. “Toddler formula does not contain the micronutrients that baby formula does, and your babies may have complications due to the lack of certain micronutrients.”
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more to say about infant nutrition.
SOURCES: Richard So, MD, pediatrician, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital; Joshua Wechsler, MD, assistant professor, pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and medical director, Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Diseases Program, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
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