Houston pediatric dietitian answers questions about baby formula shortage

Diane Anderson is facing a problem many parents are battling now - a shortage of baby formula. It’s a dire situation across the country, as families jump from store to store trying to find formula on shelves.

At the beginning of the year, there was an 8% shortage of formula. That’s risen to 30%, according to Datasembly. For families in need of specialized formula, it’s even more complicated.

“She was premature, they have to give them the higher calorie formula to get them to fatten up,” said Anderson, a Houston mother, about her baby daughter who has thrived only on a specific brand. “Anything else we’ve tried, she would scream through feedings.”

A massive baby formula recall in February has the brand the Andersons need in short supply, as the manufacturer works to replenish inventory with new batches.

Texas Children’s Hospital Senior Pediatric Dietitian Kristi King is getting many questions about formula every day.

Below you will see answers King provided during an interview with KPRC 2 health reporter Haley Hernandez.

Why can’t stores restock?

In addition to the formula recall, King said we are now in the grips of supply chain issues.

“Meaning there are not enough truck drivers to pick this formula up and take it to distribution sites,” King explained.

Can you make your own formula?

King said do NOT water down formula and do NOT make your own formula.

“There are so many risks that come with your homemade formula - either not enough nutrients or too many nutrients for your baby and I know we have had some instances in the community where children were hospitalized because they had dangerously low potassium levels,” King said.

How early can you safely ween a child from formula and introduce milk?

King said some healthy kids can ween at around 11-months, but recommends you talk to your pediatrician first.

What about European formula that can be purchased in specialty stores?

They are not regulated by the FDA.

“That’s why safety checks are in point, right? You’re looking at a formula from Europe that is not regulated by the FDA,” King explained.

They also don’t have the same ingredients as American formulas, primarily linolenic acid, which is critical to baby’s brain development, according to King.

Also, since the instructions may be in another language, she said you take the chance of not appropriately mixing the right ratio.