COLUMBIA, S.C. — Near or empty shelves are raising alarm for parents in need of baby formula.
Supply chain issues and a major recall have made the product harder to find.
Manufacturer Abbott, whose supply was impacted, says its working to ramp up production.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has been speaking with baby food executives and leaders from chains like Walmart and Target about ways to restock shelves more quickly.
For families the help can't come soon enough, as Dr. Lauren Matthews, a physician at Lexington Pediatric Practice, says the impact is being felt among patients across the state and nation.
"If you’re trying to find a specific brand, that’s going to be very difficult, but if your child is on a basic infant formula, then try store brands or even other name brands," Dr. Matthews said.
Her message was mirrored by Dr. Tisha Felder, an associate professor at USC with a focus on women's health research, who said, in general, it should be safe to switch brands.
"I think the challenge is really for those families who have children who have sensitives, who have allergies and they may need a specific brand," Dr. Felder said, "and so it’s probably not best recommended that they switch at this time.”
She said toddler formula or cow's milk could be an option for older children, but parents should speak to their child's pediatrician before trying any other option.
Breast feeding is also something to consider for those who can.
As for adjusting formula, it's not recommended.
"There shouldn't be any dilution of that," Dr. Felder said. "There should not be any stretching of that in any way because you want to make sure that that baby is getting exactly the nutrients that they need.”
Homemade formulas are also not recommended.
Separately, families buying online should be watchful as products made outside the U.S. may have different regulations.
"Parents should certainly reach out to their pediatrician and their nurse practitioner for expertise on how to select the best formulas, if you are looking online," Dr. Felder said.
Samples could be available as well, Dr. Matthews added.
"Always call your doctor. Your pediatrician is here to help you and we want to makes sure your baby is healthy and so if you have any problems finding formula maybe you can call them and they know some places that might have it," Dr. Matthews said. "Many offices have samples available if times are really dire and you have nothing, but be patient. It will get better, but it’s a scary situation for all of us."
It's unclear when the shortage will ease as officials work to clear the bottlenecks in the supply chain and bring manufacturers back to full operation.