Dr. Anza Stanley is a pediatrics specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). She grew up in Monroe, Louisiana and graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans in 2007. After she completed her degree with honors, she attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville where she obtained her medical degree. In 2011, she began her pediatric residency at UMMC and was hired at its completion to remain on as staff in the General Pediatrics Division. She has been married for almost six years to Dr. David Josey who also works at UMMC specializing in Children’s Pulmonology. The couple has a three year old son.
What is causing the infant formula shortage?
What I understand to be the primary cause in the shortage of infant formulas is mainly supply issues, and the other thing that has led to it is the recent voluntary recall with one of the manufacturers of infant formula, including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, due to a germ that has caused infection in infants. So, a lot of children on that formula type that were affected by the recall transitioned to other formulas. Therefore, the supply need is not being met currently with those changes.
What risks does this expose infants reliant on formula to?
The main thing is that we want to make sure we are feeding the baby and getting them the appropriate nutrients they need for growth and development. There have been lots of things that are circulating online about homemade formula options, which can be dangerous because we don’t necessarily know how the nutrients and water sources and things like that can affect the babies. We know what they are getting through their infant formulas, and those homemade formulas would be difficult to know because they are not regulated.
What alternatives are there in the meantime?
In the meantime, I know that most parents have a standard formula that the child has been on and if there is a store brand option of the formula available, that would be the next choice or an alternative infant formula. I would steer away if we could from toddler formulas. Steer away from those homemade formulas as well. There are instances where your primary care provider may have samples or something in stock that may be able to help parents who are truly in a bind. But if there is a store brand alternative, that would be the first choice.
What options would you advise against?
Again, homemade formulas – there is this recipe that has been circulating online and I would stay away from that. Definitely steer away from watering down formulas to stretch that infant formula. That leads to its own issues as well. Also, steer away from other formulas that are not FDA regulated.
What is the most important action parents can take to keep one’s child nourished during this shortage?
I would lean on the advice from your primary care providers. They will be better suited to offer advice or alternatives and, again, supply samples if needed. If there is an instance where it could work short term to use something like a toddler formula or whole cow’s milk, then your primary care provider would be able to instruct you on that based on individual cases.
Do you see this shortage being resolved soon?
I pray that it is coming to an end. I know that there has been work from different administrations to help with supply and getting families what they need. In the meantime, just lean on your primary care provider to help direct alternatives as we deal with this supply shortage.
What is being done to end the formula shortage?
President Biden has announced additional actions that are being taken to put formula back on the shelves to keep infants safe. He has invoked the Defense Production Act, which ensures that manufactures have the necessary ingredients to make safe, healthy infant formula. The President is requiring suppliers to direct needed resources to the manufacturers of infant formula before any other customers that may have also ordered that good. Prioritizing the production of key infant formula inputs will increase production and speed up the supply chain.
President Biden has also launched Operation Fly Formula. This will speed up the import of infant formula and get it to stores as fast as possible. The Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture has been directed to use Department of Defense commercial aircraft to pick up overseas infant formula as well. This bypassing of regular air freighting routes will speed up the importation and distribution of this necessary infant formula.
Do you have any other tips for parents during this time?
Just remember that your pediatrician or your child’s primary care provider – we are here to help make sure that your baby’s health and nutrition and wellbeing are at the forefront. There are babies that are on special needs formulas that your primary care provider will be able to medically appropriate for that child to be on an alternative formula.