HOUSTON – There’s a massive effort to fight the baby formula shortage across the country. By June 19, it’s expected that over 4 million 8-ounce bottles of baby formula will have arrived in the U.S., including deliveries made in Fort Worth, Texas, and Dulles, Virginia. Still, it’s not enough.
The current baby formula shortage affects hospitals and neonatal intensive care units across the country. While the latest deliveries are helping with the shortage, formula for infants with digestive issues is still in short supply.
Dr. Amy B. Hair is the program director of neonatal nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital. She said the hospital has been working to support families during the formula shortage. “It’s been a challenge for some time now. Not only in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but for our families. Once they leave to go home, finding formula is a big stress for them.”
Now, the hospital is expanding a program that could help a lot of families.
The shortage largely started three months ago, after the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] found a deadly bacterial contamination which led to a baby formula recall and shut down a major manufacturing plant.
Health and Human Services Region 6 Regional Director Sima Ladjevardian applauded the agency’s efforts to source and receive more formula.
“Last week from Nestle-Gerber, we had 3.1 million cans. Some formula delivered was specialty formula,” Ladjevardian said, noting that the deliveries arrived in several states.
Kristen Tucker, the head of lactation services at Texas Children’s Hospitals, said specialty formula contains certain ingredients to help babies with medical issues, and moms need more of it. “There is no substitute for that formula except pasteurized donor breastmilk.”
Executives at Texas Children’s Hospitals said this is where their North Texas Milk Bank partnership has been a saving grace. “We relied on them for pasteurized donor breast milk for our premature and medically fragile patients,” Tucker said.
At the height of the shortage, the hospital added a community milk donation site ensuring that its most medically fragile infants who relied on nutrition to survive stayed fed. Now, it’s expanding the program.
“Since our launch in March 2022, over 40,000 ounces of breast milk has been donated through our Texas Children’s Hospital site. We are expanding our community donation sites to every campus as a next step. This could happen again, unfortunately. We have to always keep our eyes on protecting our patients and making sure we have the supplies necessary,” Tucker said.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported that more specialty formula should be available by June 20.