What to think about when dealing with a shortage of infant formula.

Parents are scrambling to find infant formula after a major manufacturer’s recall in February. Cone Health Children’s Services pediatricians and lactation consultants offer advice for those looking for feeding options.

“Breastfeed if you can,” explains Dr. Suresh Nagappan, of Cone Health’s Women’s & Children’s Center at Moses Cone Hospital. “Breast milk is the perfect nutrition for babies. If you’re already breastfeeding, please consider breastfeeding longer than you originally planned as a way to support other parents of newborns during this formula shortage.”

Frozen breast milk can last for 6 to 12 months, he says, which could also help working parents returning to the office and reluctant to pump on the job.

Increasing Milk Supply

To produce more breast milk, Lactation Nursing Director Jonna Hunter, MSN, suggests staying hydrated, getting enough rest, eating a nutrient-dense diet like adding lean proteins, and most importantly, reducing stress.

Hunter suggests three more free options from Cone Health:

  1. Baby & Me, parent support group, meets every Wednesday. Register at conehealthybaby.com.
  2. Breastfeeding moms with questions can contact Cone Health’s free lactation telehealth line at (336) 832-6860. Just leave a message and a certified lactation consultation will call you back.
  3. Virtual breastfeeding support group meets Tuesdays and Thursdays. Register at conehealthybaby.com.

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Graphic with tips for increasing mom's milk supply

Switching Formula

Breastfeeding is not an option for all families, so talking with your pediatrician about switching formula brands is a good idea.

Cone Health Pediatrician Dr. Kaye Gable says there is no risk to changing formula from one brand to the other as long as they are the same class of formula.

Formulas are grouped into classes by their protein source and the type of protein. The classes are:

  • Cow’s milk protein
  • Soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed protein (hypoallergenic)
  • Amino acid formula

“Changing from one brand of cow’s milk formula to another,” explains Gable, “has no health risk any more than drinking Pepsi instead of Coke has a health risk.”

“The risk is associated with going to a cow’s milk protein formula if the baby has been diagnosed with milk protein allergy and the baby has been on a hydrolyzed protein formula that is hypoallergenic,” she says.

Nagappan cautions families to avoid three things:

  1. Don’t “stretch” the formula by diluting it with more water.
  2. Don’t make your own homemade formula. These often do not have the right nutrition for your baby.
  3. Beware of third-party sellers with formula online (like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and even Amazon). You can’t be sure that what they are selling is legitimate.

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Formula Dos Donts

Babies 6 months and older can safely eat table food and do not need to get the majority of their calories from formula, according to Dr. Nagappan. You can introduce solid foods in any order, one food at a time. For more suggestions, watch this video from Cone Health Pediatric Dietitian Melissa Leonard.

Infants almost a year old can drink cow’s milk, says Nagappan, but not more than 16 ounces a day.

“Generally, avoid toddler formulas,” says Nagappan. “They might not have the right nutritional make up for the younger infant under age one. That said, if your baby is close to age one and you have no other safe options, using toddler formula for a few days is acceptable.”

Formula Types/Replacements

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Formula Types/Replacements - Cone Health