Q&A With U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
The ongoing formula shortage has been incredibly stressful for families, and millions of parents continue to struggle to find formula for their babies. Low-income families are especially vulnerable at this time: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) breastfeeding report card, as many as 1.7 million babies receive baby formula through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
What To Expect creator Heidi Murkoff interviewed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy about the formula shortage. Watch the full interview above, and see some highlights below:
Q: How can parents can find a formula that is safe?
A: “We now have a significant increase in production in the United States of formula. We have millions and millions of bottle equivalents of formula coming from abroad now that we’ve been able to ship. The FDA has made sure that these are safe.
“Now that [the Abbott plant in Michigan] is back up and running, it’s starting to ramp up in terms of production. So this is all good news, but here’s what parents need to know right now: If you go to this store and you cannot locate the formula that you’re used to, it is okay to substitute another formula. I know sometimes that can feel scary to do when you’re used to one formula, but the good news is anything you find on the shelf has met the FDA standards for safety, and it’s okay for your child.
A general word of advice is to try to stay within the same category of formula. So if you had a cow’s milk-based formula, try to use another cow’s milk-based formula. If you’re using a soy formula, try to use a soy formula. … If you stay within the same category, your child should do okay. If your baby is having a hard time adjusting or doesn’t like the taste of the new formula you can try to slowly introduce small amounts of the new formula.”
Q: If your baby is close to 1 and you switched to cow’s milk as a last resort during the shortage, once you can find formula, should you go back to formula before switching fully to cow’s milk?
A: “If you have ended up using cow’s milk for an infant who is between 6 months old and a year, I would go back to formula as soon as you’re able to.
What the American Academy of Pediatrics had suggested when they raised the possibility of using whole cow’s milk for babies 6 months and older, that was a last resort, only when formula is not available.
And the good news is, we are now in a circumstance where, because of the increased production domestically and the supply coming from abroad, [formula] is much more available.
It may not be the same brand you are used to, but the same category. And so we want parents to reach for another brand before they reach for cow’s milk. And if you do have to reach for that as the last resort, I would switch back to formula as soon as you’re able to.”
Q: Why is making your own formula so dangerous?
A: “Babies have very specific needs, and formula is made in the right composition, you know, that’s that’s just right for our infants, and we don’t want to try reproducing that in our kitchen, even with the best of intents. That sometimes can be more harm than good.”
Q: When will the formula shortage be over?
A: “We can’t give an exact date. I do want to reassure people that the administration is using every tool at its disposal to increase that supply and we’re actually seeing progress in that regard. The President had talked weeks ago about using the Defense Production Act to increase the supply here and make sure companies had every tool and ingredient they needed to get more supply out the door and onto shelves. That is now being done.
He also talked about launching Operation Flight Formula to bring safe formula as quickly as possible from outside the United States to our shelves here at home. And now that is happening. … All of this is helping, and we’ve seen production increase significantly.
This is personal for us. The reason people are working 24/7 around the clock on this is nothing more important than making sure that our children have the nutrients and sustenance that they need.”
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