MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Parents are stressed about the ongoing baby formula shortage. Some stores are having a hard time keeping certain baby formula in stock and mothers are getting desperate trying to find ways to feed their children.

Pediatric Medical Director Lucretia Carter with Tidelands Health said she is concerned with the advice she is seeing online.

“Parents have been getting advice online where some people are encouraging parents to make their own formula, and we certainly do not want parents to do that,” Carter said.

Carter said infant formula is supplemented with extra nutrients and proteins and vitamins that growing infants need.

“The risk we run of one either making your own formula, feeding cow’s milk too early, or not feeding FDA-approved formulas, is that we are unfortunately depriving our children of nutrients that they need to grow healthy, build strong bones and brains,” Carter said. “And we do not want to cause more problems that they may already have.”

Health officials are also seeing parents diluting baby formula, which is causing infants to be admitted into hospitals.

Berry Kelly is the director of community nutrition services at the South Carolina Department of Environmental Health and Control. He said caregivers of infants should never try to increase formula by diluting it.

“This can negatively impact the current health and long-term growth of the baby,” Kelly said.

According to Datasembly, nearly 40% of the nation’s formula is out of stock — forcing stores like CVS, Walgreens and Target to set limits on purchases.

What is the problem? There are supply chain issues impacting the nation, and major baby formula brand, known as Abbott Nutrition, was recalled in February of 2022, leaving mothers scrambling to find specific baby formula.

Carter said parents should not take matters into their own hands. Instead, speak with a health care provider.

“We’re seeing a number of moms coming in, especially to the outpatient office at Tidelands Health, just not being able to find formula that their child is used to receiving, and just not finding it in several different stores,” Carter said.

If a child who is on a specialty formula where it needs to be more broken down due to allergies, or some sort of gut dysfunction, then parents need to consult with their child’s pediatrician to find out what other formula or what alternatives would be available.

For an infant that is older than six months of age , Dr.Carter said it depends on what is available in your area. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed using toddler formula under emergency circumstances if that is the only formula a parent can find.  

“Also, even milk in small doses, small timeframes, using other retailers, looking in smaller stores, pharmacies, in places where you may not normally find your formula, they may have some reserved. And so just asking neighbors, asking parents of children who may have now aged out of using formula. Sometimes, they may have a spare can in the cabinet that they forgot about. So really reaching out to mom groups and local organizations to see if they can find some that way,” Carter said.

Another option is breastfeeding, but health officials acknowledge that not all moms have that option.

“Not all women are able to breastfeed, and we certainly recognize that, but we also recognize that because of that, if you can find formula, try not to buy the whole shelf.  Remember there are other moms who have no other alternatives, if you are able to breastfeed, and maybe not for all of the feedings for your child, but  supplementing one or two feeds with breast milk is going to reduce your need to have to find formula,” Carter said.