AAP sends letters advocating for immediate actions to increase supply and the government’s capacity to respond
Washington, DC—As the national shortage in infant formula continues, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote two letters to federal officials urging immediate action at every level of government to increase the supply of safe infant formula in the United States.
“What families of young children are experiencing right now is a crisis on top of a crisis; they have been through so much already with the pandemic, and now many families are struggling to find safe ways to feed their babies,” said AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP. “We urge the White House and Congress to use every lever of authority they have to rapidly address this crisis and get formula back on store shelves. For many infants, formula is their only source of nutrition. The situation is dire.”
While the AAP appreciates the recent steps announced by the White House to increase formula supply, its letter urges that more needs to be done, especially for low-income families who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, to obtain infant formula, in light of variations in access between states. The letter urges a clear timeline for families to know when to expect formula supply to return to baseline levels as well as information about how scarce supplies can be prioritized to those in dire need. The letter calls on the White House to “use every tool at its disposal to remedy this situation as quickly as possible and to provide clear communications to families.”
The shortage is deepening inequities as families with the fewest resources may lack transportation to visit multiple stores every week, or the means to pay inflated prices offered by unscrupulous sellers.
“Pediatricians across the country are providing guidance to families, caring for children who are now hospitalized due to not having access to formula products, and doing our best to connect our patients with what little supply exists, but we need help,” said Dr. Szilagyi. “This moment calls for innovative ideas, rapid action and clear, coordinated communication. Families are panicking and infants’ health and nutrition is at stake.”
The Academy also wrote a letter to Congress, urging action to:
- Provide additional resources to the FDA to address the current shortage of FDA-regulated infant formula and certain medical foods, ensure the safety of these products and prevent future shortages
- Require infant formula manufacturers to notify FDA and communicate with the agency if they expect a meaningful disruption in their domestic supply
- Ensure that in future emergencies or times of product recalls or supply chain disruptions, USDA can immediately act to increase the number of infant formula products available to WIC participants nationwide
- Ensure greater federal regulatory oversight of donor human milk by the FDA and ensure that families can access donor human milk on the basis of medical necessity, not financial status
- Require both public and private insurance to cover medically necessary foods, such as highly specialized formulas, as a treatment option
The AAP advises families:
- Call your pediatrician if you cannot access the formula you need for your baby. They may have samples in stock, connections to other local organizations, or ideas of other places to call, such as your local WIC clinic.
- It is dangerous to make your own formula at home or to water down formula. Instead call your pediatrician or primary health care provider for guidance.
- For most babies, it is okay to switch to any available formula, including store brands. If you are unsure, talk with your pediatrician.
- It can be tempting to buy as much formula as possible right now, but the AAP advises buying no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula to ease shortages.
- Additional options for families are offered on HealthyChildren.org, in this article, which is regularly updated.
“We are especially concerned about formula-fed infants younger than six months who rely on formula as their sole source of nutrition, and children with metabolic and other conditions who rely on specialty formulas no longer in production in the United States,” said Dr. Szilagyi. “These families have even fewer options. Pediatricians are here to support them, but we need an urgent solution to this crisis. Every parent and pediatrician knows that a hungry baby cannot wait an hour, let alone several more weeks or months.”
- AAP letters to the White House and Congress
- AAP News article: Q&A — Answers to parents’ questions
- HealthyChildren.org article for parents on what to do if they can’t find any formula
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds.