Babies hospitalized at Children's Wisconsin during formula shortage

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Posted at 4:00 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 20:48:49-04

MILWAUKEE — Children's Wisconsin says babies have been admitted to its emergency room for malnutrition during the baby formula shortage.

The I-Team asked Children's how many babies have been admitted and the infants' health status, and a hospital spokesperson told us in a statement, "Exact numbers on kids who have been hospitalized due to formula substitutions are not available. Kids will frequently present with malnutrition or failure to thrive for a number of reasons--including a lack of access to formula. But we are seeing more kids where inappropriate substitutions of formula is a factor in their hospitalization."

"It is true that we've seen babies hospitalized because they don't have enough formula, or they've made homemade formula that aren't meeting their nutrient needs, and they're experiencing things like malnutrition," said Jennifer Crouse, Clinical Nutrition Manager with Children's Wisconsin. "This is something that's harming kids because we don't have enough supply on the market."

Crouse says some parents struggling to feed their babies are trying out homemade formula recipes they've seen online.

"We've seen kids get admitted to our emergency room in our hospital who are mixing things together that are really just not nutritionally complete or adequate for their child," said Crouse.


Children's Wisconsin says homemade formula can cause liver and kidney damage or even an imbalance in your baby's body that can cause their heart to stop.

"The other thing we've seen is families trying to dilute formula by adding extra water, another thing we would definitely discourage against," Crouse said.

The hospital says diluting formula can lead to brain swelling or even organ failure.

Crouse encourages caregivers to reach out to their pediatricians about safe feeding options for their baby.

"Any kind of substitution they're making, go to their pediatrician to clear it. Is it okay that I'm using xyz products in place of what I'm normally getting? In many cases, there are alternatives that are okay."

"I just want to say, I know parents are trying to do their best. So, I don't blame anybody who has tried a creative solution," said Crouse.

"I totally understand what parents are trying to do. So, we're just trying to help families weigh the risks and really making sure that their pediatrician is involved with any decision, to use something other than what they're normally taking," Crouse said.

If you don't have enough formula to feed your baby, you can call 211. It's a free confidential helpline that can connect you with either a food pantry or a program in your area that can help.

Also, ask your pediatrician for free samples or coupons if cost is a concern.

Children's Wisconsin recently wrote a blog offering tips to families having trouble finding formula.

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