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Doctor talks about switching baby formula as parents wait for supply to improve

baby formula
Posted at 6:27 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 19:27:08-04

MILWAUKEE — While 78,000 pounds of baby formula were flown to Indiana by military aircraft, it has been unclear if and when any of that supply will make it to hospitals and doctors in Wisconsin.

At the same time, families who rely on formula to feed their kids still face excruciating uncertainty.

"I'm switching between four different brands right now because I'm literally grabbing whatever I can find," said mom Brittany Balsitis.

Balsitis said breastfeeding is not producing enough for her three-month-old son. He also needs hypoallergenic baby formula due to a protein allergy, but it has been a struggle to keep a healthy supply on hand.

"It's scary to think anybody is in that position. I mean, I've cried thinking about it," said mom Raquel Urbina.

Urbina knows how Balistis feels. Her daughter Adaliz also needs the same specialty baby formula, so Urbina hops from store to store buying what she can.

Urbina estimated her current supply will last a week and a half.

"Instead of making a six-ounce bottle maker, a four-ounce bottle and if she still wants the two ounces, I'll make her two ounces, but that way I'm helping avoid wasting any formula because I can't really waste any formula at this moment," Urbina said.

Dr. Margarget Henneseey, Chair of Pediatrics with Ascension Wisconsin, said switching brands is an option.

"Brands are, as far as the quality of the product, very similar from brand to brand. If I find a particular brand, that's not my usual one, it's very likely for most kids, it's going to be fine," Dr. Hennessy said.

However, she stressed that if your kid is on a specialized formula talk to their doctor first.

Dr. Hennessy advised when switching formula one way to do it is to make one bottle of brand "A" then a bottle of brand "B" then mix half and half. There is no standard scoop size so you need to follow the product's instructions exactly.

"The reason for that is that infants have a very delicate balance with their electrolytes like the salt in their body, and too much water or too little water can mess with them." Dr. Hennessy said. "For an infant, by changing even very little, their sodium for example in their body, or their calcium in their body, it can cause seizures, brain swelling, and death."

She said if you switch and your child is spitting up more or has loose stool, contact your pediatrician.

With so many families turning to social media for help, the doctor emphasized that you want unopened products. If it has already been opened, there's a risk of contamination.

Dr. Hennessey remained optimistic the formula issues will be resolved by summer.

IMPACT 211 may also help connect families to nearby resources to get baby formula. The universal shortage has created gaps in service and food pantries have limited access and eligibility requirements. However, IMPACT's President and CEO John Hyatt said it is another tool for families to try.

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