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Don’t Make Baby Formula at Home Amid Shortage, Doctors Say

Stock of baby formula is low in part because of ongoing supply chain issues attributed to the pandemic, but the problem was exacerbated by the Food and Drug Administration’s closing an Abbott Nutrition facility in February after several children became sick with bacterial infections potentially related to its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas.

Yet pediatricians say that commercial formulas remain safer than D.I.Y. options. The facility shutdown slowed formula production, but it was implemented to keep children safe, experts said. “It is a sign the system is working,” Dr. Oyeku added.

The first call any parent or caregiver struggling to track down baby formula should make is to their child’s pediatrician. They may have formula samples on hand, or be able to help connect you with local charities or breast milk banks that can help.

As of the end of last week, 43 percent of baby formula products were out of stock nationwide, but Dr. Lockwood said the shortage has been coming in “waves.” Most parents should use whatever they can find on the shelves or online from well-known distributors and pharmacies, and not worry that switching formulas will harm their children.

It is safe for most babies to switch to any F.D.A.-approved formula they can find, Dr. Abrams said, unless they have specific dietary needs. Babies who are on an extensively hydrolyzed formula for allergies, for example, will need a comparable replacement, as will babies with specific medical needs. To address that need, the F.D.A. is now allowing Abbott Nutrition to release “urgent, life-sustaining supplies” of certain specialty formulas on a case-by-case basis.

“A health care provider has to submit the form, but that is a response to this specific need,” Dr. Oyeku said.

In a pinch, babies over six months — with no known allergies — can have pasteurized whole-milk cow’s milk for a brief period of time until parents are able to find formula. While not ideal in large part because it does not provide sufficient iron, it’s preferable to offering them homemade formula or diluting store-bought formula with water, Dr. Abrams said.

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