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Advice for Hubbard County parents dealing with baby formula shortages

A nationwide shortage of baby formula is impacting parents in this area.

Baby milk formula on kitchen background
Some baby milk formulas have been hard to find due to a nationwide Similac recall. That means parents may have to spend more time searching for formula or even use a different brand.
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Marlee Morrison, community health director with CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids, said a nationwide recall of Similac, Similac Alimentum and Elecare formulas earlier this year due to contamination at a manufacturing facility in Michigan greatly diminished the available supply.

“Because of the demand, we have seen a shortage of all formulas,” she said. “It is a big problem in the area. As a WIC provider, we’re dealing with it daily. We advise parents they might have to check multiple stores. It’s not a great situation, honestly, especially for babies on specific formulas. It can be really challenging for parents to find. People all over the area are struggling to find formula. Not just here, but in Bemidji, Wadena and Detroit Lakes as well.”

The Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) is a special supplemental nutrition program.

Two area store managers responded to requests for comments about the local impact.

Keith Vanderlin is store director at Hugo’s in Park Rapids. He said, while there is formula on the shelves, there are fewer varieties than normal.

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“The Similac is still struggling to come in since the nationwide recall back in February,” he said. “It comes in once in a while. So, sometimes the stuff parents need might not be available.

“We’ve really struggled to get the product in. Assistance programs are very specific to what you can get. Those people should visit with their WIC provider to see what options are available.”

If ordering online, Morrison recommends parents look at reviews for the vendor before ordering. She said WIC is not accepted on Amazon.

“You have to go to a WIC vendor,” she said. “The grocery stores, Walgreens and Walmart. They all take WIC.”

Roberta Colsen is on the management team at Walgreens in Park Rapids. She said, while they are having difficulty getting Similac formula, they have several other varieties parents can choose from. “We have Enfamil and our organic store brand and another organic brand and some others,” she said.

Help is available

 Morrison said that for any families on WIC, staff will work with them to find alternatives they may be eligible for.

“We’ve been helping people troubleshoot as much as we can, although we are under the same limitations of the shortages as well,” she said. “Anyone can call us for advice, or they can talk to their pediatrician or provider.”

Morrison said with few choices available, parents may need to choose a different formula.

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Parents whose babies are on speciality formulas should check with their pediatrician before switching formulas.

“It’s not ideal to be switching a baby’s formula back and forth,” she said. “I wish there was a better answer, but as of right now, we’re not seeing much change in the situation. It’s still difficult to find certain kinds of formulas, especially the sensitive or total comfort formulas.”

Never dilute formula

Morrison said formula should never be diluted with more water to make it last longer.

“You need to prepare it as recommended, and it’s dangerous for the baby if you water it down,” she said. “That’s a big concern for us. Also, parents should not be giving their baby milk before they’re a year old.”

When switching formulas, Morrison said it is best to transition from the old formula to the new when possible.

“Ideally, we recommend mixing the formulas 50/50, with half of the familiar formula and half of the new formula in the bottle for a day or two to help with the transition if you’re able to,” she said.

Morrison said it may take babies a week or two to adjust to a new formula. “They may be gassy or irritable for the first few days, and that’s normal on a formula switch, especially for younger infants,” she said.

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Lorie Skarpness has been writing for the Enterprise since 2017.
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