Huntsville pediatricians stress baby formula safety

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 6:18 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Desperate and anxious! That’s how many families describe their feelings as they search for baby formula. There are new plans to ease this shortage, but doctors are warning parents to be careful.

“We do frequently see infants who come in for related things like dehydration,” said Pediatric Hospitalist Dr. Kym Middleton. “Sometimes we have families who try to stretch formula, and they end up diluting the formula and that can cause infant’s to come in with electrolyte abnormalities.”

There has not been a significant uptick in hospitalizations locally due to the baby formula shortage. However, even during normal times, it’s not uncommon for families to stretch formula by diluting it. That’s why local doctors are sounding the alarm right now. Middleton said dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, and nutritional deficiencies can all be caused by diluted formula. Homemade formulas pose many risks, too.

“It can cause severe complications and it’s not worth the risk,” Middleton said.

Middleton said cow’s milk is one alternative if the child is at least 9 months or older. However, that should only be temporary. She urges parents to follow the guidelines and to check with their baby’s doctor. Some pediatric clinics store formula, and will help parents make a safe plan.

“Having this formula shortage does increase the risk of babies having dehydration, limited caloric needs and nutritional needs if they are not being fed what they need,” Middleton said. “Their range of requirements is much more particular and that is why homemade formulas, diluted formulas are not going to work very well and a lot of alternatives are not going to be safe for babies.”

Dr. Middleton said donor milk, though more expensive, is an option for families. The Human Milk Bank of North America is a reliable source.

“You want to make sure that you are using a reputable donor milk bank that will test and make sure that the milk supplied is safe for consumption,” she said.

Parents should also look on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website for a list of resources.

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