The importance of baby formulaBy Veita Bland, M.D. / May 27, 2022
As this world continues to turn, the problems that we are facing continue to grow. Who would have imagined two years ago that the term “supply chain” would be a part of everyone’s daily vocabulary? And who would’ve thought that the latest supply chain problem would be related to a shortage of baby formula? While this shortage has been deemed an acute issue, it can have far reaching effects for the infants, babies and young children involved. These infants, babies and young children are growing and need the proper nutrients to facilitate the growth and development of their brains and bodies and they need it now.
We know that part of the problem lies from the fact that Abbott Labs, the maker of Similac, has not been able to come to an agreement with the FDA to re-open one of its factories that was closed due to contamination of the formula they manufactured. This contamination has allegedly been linked to the deaths of several infants.
The Abbott Lab plant also formulates and supplies the country with several lesser-known infant formulas that are made for babies with rare medical problems, which include metabolic issues, allergies and gastrointestinal problems. Infants with such medical conditions cannot consume regular formula and it would be extremely dangerous to do so.
Here lies one of the huge problems we see. These formulas are precisely made. Their ingredients have been painstakingly derived to provide an infant, baby or child taking it the precise nutrients they need to live and thrive. This is why it is not recommended to water down baby formula and parents should not add another type of formula to a special formula in order to “stretch” them. Watering down or adding to a special formula changes the precise nutrient content of the baby formula. Desperate parents have attempted to alter formulas in order to stretch them and this has resulted in several hospitalizations due to dehydration and other metabolic problems.
A majority of the infants involved will be able to switch from a name brand to a house brand formula. Some infants may not appreciate the difference in the taste, which might be a problem. If you can get babies to drink the house brands, they will be okay. House brands still have to meet precise regulations in order to be sold as baby formula.
Speak with your pediatrician and get his/ her take on what you should do. Older babies that are getting close to a year in age may be at a stage, if approved by their pediatrician, to be transitioned to cow’s milk. This transition represents a whole different set of issues for some who debate the appropriateness of cow’s milk, but I digress.
This “supply chain” event has opened up a host of problems. Parents need to be aware and on guard that they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals, who charge excessive amounts of money and do not possess the specific baby formula their children may require. Online communities have developed spaces to acquire breast milk. Talk with your pediatrician before accepting or buying these products. There are questions of how the milk is processed, kept free of bacteria and the temperature chain while en route to your door.
Hopefully, we can get the Abbott nutritional facility back online soon. Then we should examine how we can build redundancy into the “supply chain” for infant formula. How can we grow other suppliers of formula? How can we make sure there are more producers in this space? We need to make sure this does not happen again, but will we, once the emergency is over and our attention is turned to the next emergency?
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.