In response to the ongoing national infant formula shortage, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has tips for families dealing with the shortage and struggling to find substitute formulas.

“This is a very stressful time for a lot of Wisconsin families, and we want to make sure they have the information they need so they can keep their babies healthy and well-fed with suitable substitutes if they can’t find their usual brand of formula,” said Wisconsin DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “In many cases, babies on standard formulas can switch to any formula that’s available, including store brands. If your baby takes a specialized formula, it’s best to talk to your family’s pediatrician about the best substitute for your child.”

The formula shortage is the result of national supply chain issues and a recall(link is external) of powdered formulas, which made it difficult for companies that make and distribute baby formula to keep up with demand. Due to the ongoing shortage, some stores are limiting the number of canned formula people can buy, and prices have also increased.

DHS recommends families dealing with the shortage:

  • Do not water down or dilute formula to stretch it out. This prevents babies from getting nutrients that they need.
  • Do not make homemade formulas. This is unsafe and will not meet a baby’s nutritional needs.
  • Avoid giving babies cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or plant-based milk until they are at least one year-old, as these milks lack minerals and proteins and can give babies digestive issues. In rare emergency situations, whole cow’s milk can be given(link is external) to infants over 6 months-old, but parents and caregivers should consult with their child’s health care provider first.
  • Check smaller stores and drug stores. They may have more stock than big stores.
  • Search store websites before going in person. And make sure to shop at reputable retailers or pharmacies.
  • Check food pantries, charitable organizations, and others that may be able to help. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children’s program) clinics can help connect people to local food pantries.
  • Buy only the formula needed in the immediate future and avoid stockpiling. This helps ensure other families have access to critical formula for their infants and allows manufacturers and retailers adequate time to restock shelves.
  • Work with health care providers to use Abbott’s Urgent Product Requests(link is external) process to find specialty formulas.
  • Families with questions or concerns should contact their pediatrician or their WIC clinic.

Families should make sure they do not have, do not buy, and do not use any recalled formula.

  • They can check the lot code, a multidigit number on the bottom of containers of Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered infant formula, and should not use if:
    • the first two digits of the code are 22 through 37; and
    • the code on the container contains K8, SH or Z2; and
    • the expiration date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later.
  • In addition, Abbott Nutrition recalled Similac PM 60/40 with the following lot codes:
    • Cans: 27032K80
    • Cases: 27032K800
  • Families can also check their lot numbers on the Abbott website(link is external).

Those breastfeeding or looking to delay weaning can find additional resources on the DHS Breastfeeding webpage. People looking for breastmilk donations can visit the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes(link is external) website. And anyone considering using breastmilk that is not from a certified milk bank should make sure the donor is a trusted family member or friend, and tested to make sure they are free of any transmissible diseases. More guidance is available on the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine(link is external) website.

Wisconsin WIC has continued to offer as many formula substitutions as possible during this challenging time, and has worked with formula company representatives to get updates on supply, help locate formula at stores, and send samples of formula when available. Further, Wisconsin WIC and Medicaid have created a system for WIC participants to obtain Elecare and Elecare Jr., Nutramigen with Enflora LGG, and PediaSure 1.5 Cal. substitutions during the formula shortage with a streamlined prior authorization (PA) approval. This has provided another avenue for participants to receive formula.

For more information about the recall and other suggested actions, visit the Wisconsin WIC webpage.

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