According to US statistics, most babies consume formula. Less than 50% of babies are exclusively breastfed until 3 months, while at 6 months, this percentage is as small as 25%. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, people started to buy all kinds of products, including baby formulas, and accumulate them. Consequently, retailers were unable to understand how much baby formula they should order to keep shelves stocked. Further, supply chain issues appeared. Furthermore, the main supplier of baby formulas in the US, an Abbott Laboratories production facility, was shut down. With the ongoing baby food crisis, some parents are considering measures they would not normally take to feed their babies. Let’s take a look at how parents cope with this situation and how they can manage it.
How the US Parents Are Coping with the Baby Formula Crisis
To name just a few examples, parents are looking for help on social media platforms, such as Facebook and TikTok, asking for help from people from all over the country if they could ship some formulas to them. Many of them mention that some people purchase the formula even though they do not need it and sell it several times more expensive than its regular price. Others look for milk donors. However, this option is not very common in the US. Many mothers also say they try to breastfeed, but some of them are unable to produce enough milk for their little ones.
Hospitals are providing mothers with baby formula for some time after giving birth. Another way is getting some formula through the pediatrician’s office. However, you never know if they will have a product suitable for your baby, so you just get whatever they can give, continuously trying new formulas. Parents say it feels like playing Russian roulette with the new formula because you cannot be sure if your infant will tolerate it.
Parents are stressed and overwhelmed since they are unsure what to do if they cannot find a formula. While pediatricians say it’s not recommended and even dangerous to switch infants over to regular cow’s milk until they are one year old, parents consider even such an option for older babies.
Tips on Managing the Baby Formula Shortage
Here are several pieces of advice that might help American parents manage this difficult period with the baby food crisis.
Create the Nutritional Plan According to Your Baby’s Age
In general, the older the baby, the less critical it is to provide it with the baby formula. For example, infants 11-12 months old could theoretically consume some cow’s milk and increase their solid foods under the pediatrician’s control. However, for younger infants, the situation is more complicated. Even babies under 10 months require baby formula for proper nutrition and digestion of solid foods. Infants at the age of fewer than 6 months are completely dependent on formula, so their families must look for such products.
Do Not Water Down the Formula
Such mixtures are created to be as close to the breast milk in their composition as possible, including exact ratios of protein, fat, minerals, and other ingredients, all created with infant kidneys and other organs and systems in mind. If you water down the formula, these ratios get changed, potentially harming the baby’s body. You should take baby formula more like a medication than food. This is why the baby formula is so strictly regulated.
Consider Buying a European Baby Formula
To ease the crisis, the FDA is currently working towards approving more brands of European formula in the US market. Here are several reasons why such products are really good for your baby:
- European manufacturers use the highest-quality organic ingredients. They are subject to the most rigorous ingredient and manufacturing standards. Such brands regularly undergo extensive government checks regarding their composition and labeling.
- The companies do not add controversial components that may harm the baby’s health, including dextrose, glucose, syrups, and other sweeteners. Instead, they use lactose, naturally occurring in human breast milk.
- They mostly avoid using such additives as soy lecithin, carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, which are known for causing digestive disorders. Instead, the manufacturers use more natural ingredients such as guar gum. While most manufacturers tend to refuse to use soy lecithin in their formulas, some companies do add it to their lactose-free products.
- They offer a more extensive range of products for babies with special nutritional needs.
Consider Breast Milk Donors
Never use breast milk from your friend or family member. It can potentially transmit viruses. A far safer option is reaching out to a local milk bank, which makes donated milk safe through pasteurization. However, milk banks are primarily for medically fragile babies, like the ones in the hospital, and a doctor’s prescription is required.