CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — Parents are scrambling to find baby formula amid a nationwide shortage, and doctors are worried about what parents might resort to in order to feed their babies.
Dr. Robin Darnell, a pediatrician at Kid Care Pediatrics in Kanawha City, West Virginia, said parents are handling the formula shortage by working together to find out which stores have the supplies they need.
“We don’t want them to feel panic. I know they are starting to feel panic,” Darnell said, adding that parents call daily with questions related to the baby formula shortage.
One thing she doesn’t recommend is trying the do-it-yourself approach.
“That is a no-no. Formula is very specifically made and there is an art and a science to it. It has almost 30 different vitamins and minerals. It has a certain mix of proteins. Never would it be okay to mix your own formula,” Darnell explained.
She said parents who are feeling desperate may also be tempted to dilute formula. But for their baby’s safety, she says, it is important to follow the exact instructions.
“If you mix it differently or add too much water, you are going to get a diluted formula that is going to impact the baby’s electrolytes. Their sodium and potassium will get out of whack,” Darnell said.
Even if parents can’t find the exact brand they are used to, it might still be okay.
“It is hard for parents to understand how formulas are designed. There are milk-based formulas, but they are made by Enfamil and Similac. Those are the two commercial brands. But it is really like Ford and Chevy. They have the same ingredients by two different makers,” Darnell explained. She said there are also generic options with the same ingredients.
She said when in doubt, the best thing to do is call your child’s doctor.
Baby formula is one of many products impacted by supply chain issues. That only got worse when the Food and Drug Administration shut down a manufacturing plant in Michigan because of contamination concerns.
The Biden administration and lawmakers say they are working on the issue, but some Republicans blame President Joe Biden.
Biden said he’s trying to increase supply by cutting red tape for manufacturers and increasing foreign imports. But bipartisan calls are growing for the president to go further by using the Defense Production Act.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “The Defense Production Act is the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base needed to promote the national defense.”
Biden stepped up his administration’s response to a nationwide baby formula shortage Thursday. He discussed with executives from Gerber and Reckitt how they could increase production and how his administration could help, and talked with leaders from Walmart and Target about how to restock shelves and address regional disparities in access to formula, the White House said.
The administration plans to monitor possible price gouging and work with trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands on imports, even though 98% of baby formula is domestically made.
Families who want resources to help them find formula can click here for a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.