Infant Formula Shortage: What Physician Practices Need to Know

The recent nationwide shortage of baby formula has prompted many families to contact their child’s physician for help finding formula, or with questions about safe alternatives. 

Many factors have contributed to the shortage: the temporary shutdown of a major manufacturing plant because of safety concerns, limited number of production facilities within the U.S., and supply chain shortages, among others. Recent actions by the federal government and manufacturers will help ease shortages within the next four to six weeks.

If a child’s family contacts your practice with inquiries about the shortage, the Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society have compiled this list of tips and information to help you respond:

  • Visit the website for TexasWIC – the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – for regularly updated information about allowed alternatives when a WIC formula product is not available to low-income women.
  • Inform families that changing brands of formula is safe if their baby or toddler does not have any allergies or metabolic conditions. While side effects after changing brands are uncommon, ask parents to contact you if their child experiences any such side effects.
  • Encourage breastfeeding whenever possible and provide parents with contact information to local lactation support resources, including milk banks.
  • If families are feeding babies with a combination of formula and breast milk, counsel on ways to increase breast milk supply through more frequent nursing or pumping. Check to make sure mothers have an adequate pump or know hand expression techniques. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine has issued guidance for physicians and providers.
  • Educate parents about the dangers of homemade formula and encourage them to buy formula only from reputable sources. Formula purchased from secondary markets has been known to cause harm to infants. 
  • Establish a plan to distribute formula samples to parents if your practice has distributable samples. Additionally, other clinics in your area may have a surplus of samples they might be willing to share.
  • Know the contact information for your local food bank or food pantries and inquire whether they require parents to provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate or physician’s note before they will distribute formula.
  • If needed, request urgent access to metabolic infant formulas via Abbott Nutrition, an infant formula manufacturer.
  • Check with durable medical equipment companies, which also may be able to provide formula for families with medical need.   

Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released an article by Steven Abrams, MD, past chair of the AAP’s National Committee on Nutrition, to address common questions from parents.

Last Updated On

May 31, 2022

Originally Published On

May 31, 2022

Related Content

Public Health