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The United States is facing a national formula shortage. In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of Abbott’s powder formula. Due to this unforeseen circumstance, other formula supply companies have been unable to keep up with demand.

Formula serves many types

A formula shortage affects more than just infants. Many people who are formula-dependent are suffering. Those who are tube-fed, cancer patients, those diagnosed with severe food allergies, and those with other underlying conditions all rely on formula for nutrition. This situation has caused significant stress on families. Are you looking for ways to navigate the formula shortage?

It is important to understand what has been recalled. First, read a full list of formulas impacted by this recall. Want to check if your powdered formula is part of the recall? Enter the product lot code on the bottom of your package on the company’s website to determine if your product is contaminated.

What to do in a formula shortage

If you are a parent, caregiver or individual having trouble during this formula shortage, it is important to know what resources are available. Here are some ways you can combat the shortage:

Steps to take

1. Shop small

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommends that families check smaller stores or drug stores during a formula shortage. These stores could have more stock than chain stores who tend to have more customers.

What to do if you run out of formula? Contact your child’s/adult’s health care provider. They will be able to provide medical advice and possible resolutions that are safe for your formula-dependent person.

2. Check food banks

The Racine County Food Bank has a limited supply of both infant and toddler formula. Dan Taivalkoski, Executive Director of the Racine County Food Bank, shares, “I understand the type we have cannot be used by all. All of our pantries have access to this (supply of infant and toddler formula) and should have a supply on hand. If they are current pantry clients, they simply need to ask at the pantry that they visit. If not, the folks at 2-1-1 can direct them to the closest pantry that is open on the day that they would like to visit.”

The Racine County Food Bank is always accepting unopened formula donations that have not expired. This is especially helpful during a formula shortage.

3. Utilize WIC & FoodShare

The Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) can be a resource to utilize during the formula shortage. Apply for WIC if you meet the criteria. If you are already enrolled, contact your local WIC clinic for help if you are being affected by the recall or shortage.

Visit Health & Nutrition Service of Racine for more helpful tips and information.

4. Check non-profits or churches

Can’t find what you are looking for in the store? Non-profits and churches can be a place to turn for assistance. During a formula shortage, you may possibly find formula at these non-profits/churches in Southeastern Wisconsin.

View a list of additional non-profits or churches on the 211 website.

5. Substitute

If you or your child do not have dietary restrictions, substituting formulas may be the answer. If you cannot find what you are looking for, change to an alternative.

When you are formula-dependent, switching to another formula cannot always be an easy move. However, there are some babies and individuals who can switch to a different formula, including store brands. Switching to another brand that is available is a smart choice while families try to locate the formula they normally use.

The Wisconsin WIC approved substitution list is below:

What you need to know about breastfeeding

While many advocate for it, breastfeeding isn’t the answer for every parent either. It may be a possibility for some; try it if you are able. But this option is not possible for older teens and adults who rely on formula for nutrition. Some people may not be able to resort to breastfeeding. However, if you do, DHS offers these resources if you are considering breastfeeding:

  • For parents who want to breastfeed or delay weaning, use the breastfeeding webpage for information and support.
  • Parents looking for breastmilk donations can visit the Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes website.
  • Families considering using breastmilk that is not from a certified milk bank should make sure the donor is a trusted family member or friend. Ideally, donors should be tested to make sure they are free of any illnesses they could pass along. More guidance on breastmilk substitutes is available from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

What Not To Do

Unsure about what to do in this formula shortage? Before feeding something other than formula, contact your/your child’s healthcare provider. To prevent health problems, people are advised to:

  • Never water down formula or make your own.
  • Not give a child cow’s milk before they are 1 year old. Avoid goat’s milk, or plant-based milks too.
    • In rare emergency situations, whole cow’s milk can be given to infants over 6 months-old, but parents and caregivers should consult with their child’s health care provider first.  
  • Do not follow recipes trending on social media
  • Do not stockpile formula. This prevents other families from getting the access to what they need.

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