Baby formula shortage impacts more than infants

Physicians discourage diluting or making homemade formula, could prove deadly

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working on ramping up access to infant and specialty formula products – after the agency warned consumers against the use of some Abbott products.

Expectant mothers are looking for other options – in light of the formula shortage.

Nia Brown has about three months left in her pregnancy.

“It’s really exciting to have a baby,” she said. “It’s my first, may be my last.”

Despite the excitement the shortage has made her a bit nervous.

“I am definitely thinking about it 100%,” said Brown. “There is a lot of people that are going to different places, out-of-state ,hours away to get it, and it’s kind of nerve racking.”

Some have used social media to connect with others who are willing to part with their supply of milk substitute.

However, the high cost of fuel to drive to meet-ups has added stress to an already bad situation.

Emmy Gibson works with Communities in Schools of Cape Fear and coordinates Baby Steps which is a supportive program for young parents.

One of the groups impacted by the shortage, faced socioeconomic inequalities in access to resources before the crisis started.

“The expensive fee of a taxi, or an Uber or Lyft to get to the grocery store, and then you can only get one can of formula, or they have to go to several grocery stores in order to find a specific type of formula that they need,” said Gibson. “It’s a huge barrier.”

Dr. Khadijia Tribie is New Hanover Department of Pediatrics’ Wilmington Pediatrician Chair.

Parents who’ve found themselves in this situation have become innovative – diluting formula -even making their own, according to Dr. Tribie.

“Of course you worry about baby getting their nutrients, and if baby doesn’t get the proper nutrients they will not grow,” she said.

Growing infants who lack nutrients may not have a normal brain growth, or worst it could prove deadly.

“It’s going to be fatal, most pediatricians in their careers have seen children who are severely malnourished because of things like this,” she said. “Not necessarily a formula shortage but families diluting formula, and those babies just don’t develop well.”

The concern isn’t isolated to infants – the issue impacts special needs children and even adults – who can’t ingest food orally.

“They have to use feedings and that’s often tube feeding,” she said. “Those are certainly individuals who are at great risk, and those can be individuals of any age.

Dr. Tribie has been in practice for 15 years.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this my career,” she said.

Pediatricians or physicians will guide parents’/care takers in the right direction, they are the authority on the subject.

Both Gibson and Dr. Tribie say it will all start with creating a network of resources.

“The thing I want to encourage families to understand is reach out to pediatricians, store owners, businesses, I want us to create systems that can help families find the formula,” said Dr. Tribie.

“In order for us to achieve a healthy community, we have got to put in the resources to providing support to these young families and their babies are our future,” said Gibson. “And not being able to feed your child I can’t even imagine the stress and the heart break that brings.”

Baby Steps Program is a two-tiered system of support for young parents 21 and younger, living in New Hanover and Pender Counties.

For more information on the program click here.

State Attorney General Josh Stein encourages people to report any price gouging of baby formula to his office, warning that some sellers may try to take advantage of the shortage.

Price gouging concerns can be reported by call (877) 5-no-scam.

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