Pediatricians warn parents against taking extreme measures amid baby formula shortage

CHARLOTTE — Doctors are concerned that parents may take extreme measures as the shortage for baby formula continues.

There is an estimated 40% of baby formula out of stock in the U.S., according to Datasembly, a tracking firm.

The struggle to find safe and affordable formula has grown worse in the last three months.

[ALSO READ: ‘What am I going to feed my child?’: Baby formula recall presents challenge for Charlotte mom]

Some parents are traveling from store to store, desperate to find formula for their children.

Chrissy Mead said the situation is terrifying.

“Without formula, I have zero other options to feed my child,” Mead said. “Every drop of the formula is liquid gold. I’m terrified to spill a drop of it.”

Baby formula is the only way Mead can feed her seven-year-old son, Cooper, who requires a feeding tube.

The brand she fed him was recalled earlier this year, and she had to throw out every can she had.

Now, Mead gets her supply from a hospital-delivery service that she says is constantly changing brands because of the supply shortage.

[Fact Sheet: Helping Families Find Formula During the Infant Formula Shortage]

Mead said the formula upsets Cooper’s stomach, but it’s their only option.

[ALSO READ: Parents swap, sell baby formula as Biden focuses on shortage]

“I don’t know if everyone understands the gravity of this situation for people,” she said. “It’s tremendously scary.”

There is an online community mothers use to share resources, which includes where to find formula and if there are any extra cans available.

Finding baby formula can be especially tough for those in rural areas, which may have fewer stores.

“From what I’m seeing, a lot of those people are driving to other states,” said Cara Steele, executive director at Operation: Reach Out in Monroe.

Someone donated five cans to the organization on Friday, which were gone in one hour.

(Watch the video below: Doctors: Don’t make baby formula at home)

“They were very grateful, because they are struggling trying to find it right now,” Steele said.

Pediatrician Dr. Maureen Choi with Novant Health is also trying to help families find formula or alternative solutions.

In some cases, they are starting older babies on whole milk, which is a bit sooner.

She said that in most cases, it’s OK to switch formula brands.

“If the baby is not on a particular formula for a medical need, they can absolutely switch brands. Switch to a generic,” Choi said.

Pediatricians caution families against dangerous alternatives, such as watering down the formula.

“That can throw off the sodium balance in babies’ bodies and potentially cause brain swelling, which can be really dangerous,” she said.

[ALSO READ: Parents hunting for baby formula as shortage spans US]

Pediatricians also say to not make a homemade formula and don’t buy formulas from other countries not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Doctors say if you are having a hard time finding formula, contact your local health department’s WIC office.

Even if you aren’t a WIC participant, officials can help locate formula.

The FDA announced it closed its investigation into contaminated baby formula produced at an Abbott manufacturing plant in Michigan after four children got sick and two babies died.

Officials with the FDA said on Friday that no more children got sick.

StarMed Giveaway

StarMed was one of the leaders in getting COVID-19 tests and vaccines out to the local community and is stepping up during the formula crisis.

[ALSO READ: StarMed Healthcare offers first antiviral pill to treat NC COVID-19 patients]

The giveaway will be at two locations on Tuesday.

The clinic on Tuckaseegee Road opens at 8:30 a.m. and the one on Central Avenue opens at 9 a.m..

They will both be on a first come, first served basis.

(Watch the video below: Baby formula shortage: What you need to know)

Mecklenburg County health leaders are working with the state WIC office to make adjustments to accommodate those who may have difficulty finding formulas in stores.

County WIC locations have been dealing with formula shortages for more than one year now, officials said.

The county said:

  1. We have a Vendor Coordinator who calls 150+ stores in Mecklenburg County we do business with to find formulas for our participants.
  2. For certain powder formulas, we can change them to Ready-To Feed (RTF) if the RTF is available at the store with the permission of the infant’s Primary Care Provider (PCP).
  3. For some unique formulas, we can put in a written request to have the formula delivered to a WIC site with the permission of the State office in Raleigh and the Primary Care Provider.
  4. We also work closely with Primary Care Providers to find a different formula compared to the product they may be receiving but is not currently readily available in stores.

The senior medical director of pediatric primary care at Atrium Health Levine Children’s provided Do’s and Don’ts during the shortage.


  • Talk with your pediatrician and ask if they can get you a can from the local formula representatives or one of the charities that has some. Your local WIC office may also be able to suggest places to look.
  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are.
  • If you can afford it, buy formula online until store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites.
  • For most babies, it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula. Confirm with your pediatrician.
  • Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula and members may have ideas for where to find formula.


  • Do not make a homemade formula from ingredients at the store, such as powdered cow milk or raw milk and sugar.
  • Do not feed your infant, under 1 year old, cow milk or other milk substitutes from the dairy section of the grocery store, such as almond or soy beverages (sometimes labeled as milk).
  • Do not use imported formulas from other countries that are not reviewed by the FDA.
  • Do not water down formulas by adding more water when mixing powdered formula or adding extra water to ready-to-serve, non-concentrated liquid formula.

REMINDER: Don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns you have about your baby’s health and nutrition. If your child has special health needs, be sure to check with their doctor about medically appropriate and safe feeding alternatives.

(Watch the video below: ‘What am I going to feed my child?’: Baby formula recall presents challenge for Charlotte mom)

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