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Baby formula shortage hits north Alabama families hard

Labor shortage and recalls compound baby formula shortage
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 9:06 PM CDT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A serious nationwide shortage is causing a health risk for babies. Parents across the Tennessee Valley are having trouble finding baby formula.

If parents aren’t nursing, their babies still need proper liquid nourishment and they can’t find it.

Mark Harbin is the father of eight-month old twins Finley and Eleanor, and he was terrified he wouldn’t be able to feed his children.

Harbin says he was expecting his monthly shipment of baby formula from Enfamil on Saturday but it never came.

“Apparently they were out completely and they didn’t let us know they just didn’t send it,” said Harbin. “So, we went into panic mode. We had one little refill left and that was it.”

He and his wife checked out all their local stores and found just four baby formula refills, far from enough to feed their twin babies. That’s when he says he reached out to his church family for help. He had friends leave the state to find baby formula in cities like Chattanooga and Atlanta. They were able to find enough formula to stock up for the rest of the month.

“The fact that there are people that we know who would take it upon themselves and go out of their way to speak high and low Just speaks volumes,” said Harbin.

There was already a baby formula shortage when the pandemic began now it’s even worse because of labor shortages and a major product recall. The Food and Drug Administration announced its investigating powdered baby formula made by Abbott Nutrition in one of its facilities in Michigan.

Pediatricians are warning parents not to take matters into their own hands. Dr. Kym Middleton says she’s seeing several homemade baby formula recipes on the internet but she strongly encourages parents to avoid them. She says they can be very dangerous for infants.

Dr. Middleton says the margin for error in baby formula is really slim. She says getting the ingredients and nutrients just right is essential for a baby’s survival. “The exact amount for infants is hard to make so it’s not recommended to do that,” said Dr. Middleton.

She also recommends being careful if you use donated breastmilk. Dr. Middleton says there aren’t consistent regulations for breast milk banks. “You can get certain things transmitted via breast milk,” said Dr. Middleton “So, that may not be the safest way unless you know how for sure how they’re testing things like antibodies, infections, things like that.”

She offers one solution if a child is close to one-year-old parents can feed them cow’s milk or toddler formula. But, if they’re under 10 months old it’s important to try and get that formula.

“You can have problems with growth. You can have problems with brain development, and bone growth,” said Dr. Middleton “Developmental milestones could get affected if their brain isn’t growing appropriately because you need iron to get your blood circulating and getting the oxygen your whole body needs so you can end up having a lot of issues with growth and development.”

President Joe Biden just announced a series of efforts to put baby formula back on shelves. It includes reducing red tape to speed up formula production and make it easier to import formula from abroad.

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