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Pediatricians share their concerns about formula shortage

Pediatricians urge parents in need of formula to talk with them about alternatives

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Parents of newborns have been visiting the Eastside Neighborhood Clinic in Santa Barbara to pick up formula samples.

"In your pediatrician's office, for example, we have some samples, so a lot of offices have samples, so there are many reasons to reach out to your pediatrician's office," Dr. Anupamu Sharma said.

The pediatrician calls the formula shortage a crisis.

Fabiola Miranda turned to formula when her 8-month-old son Gael didn't latch on well to suckle.

She said there are a lot of children and mothers who don't have maternal milk.

She said usually the formula she buys lasts about a week, but the shelves were almost empty at Rite Aid off of Milpas in Santa Barbara.

One 22-ounce container costs almost $38.

"Just yesterday I had a mom with a 2-month-old who could not breastfeed," said Dr. Sharma. "Yes, I have been getting questions, yes this formula shortage is definitely a crisis for our country."

She said it is a problem for expecting moms and babies under six months with critical needs.

But she also shared some promising news. "We are going to be importing formula from Nestle overseas so that is one piece of good news," she said.

Abbott is supposed to be up and running in a few weeks.

But she said it will still take 6-8 weeks to get the formula back on the shelves.

"Two months is a very long time, babies will die without food in that much time so that is where our critical crisis is over the next 6-8 weeks," she continued.

It is hard for doctors to just recommend a single solution.

She said parents should talk to their pediatricians about the right alternative for their infants.

At Neighborhood Clinics, they can make an appointment in person or via telehealth.

"That is what we are here for."

Recommendations will depend on the age and health of the baby.

"The American Pediatric Academy of Pediatrics website says even six and seven-month-old babies are probably okay to begin to give them whole milk, but you may want to supplement that with a multi-vitamin and maybe some other source of food with iron like the peas," said Dr. Sharma.

She said there is no easy substitute for the zero to six-month-olds who may be allergic to the protein or lactose or sugar in whole milk.

Healthy children's website has good information and that includes some warnings.

"The few things that everyone should know by now already; do not dilute the formula you have, there are homemade recipes going around they are dangerous, they can lead to nutritional deficiencies, you can contaminate them if you are making at home, that is definitely not a good idea."

She also said goat milk has nutritional deficiencies that can be dangerous for babies.

And she has a message for moms.

"I want to speak to the moms who cannot breastfeed, if you can that is wonderful, but we know for many reasons, so many moms cannot breastfeed, so I just want to send love and support to you guys, please, please reach out to your pediatrician, " said Dr. Sharma.

For more information visit www.aap.org or healthychildren.org.

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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