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Health departments offer advice during formula shortage

 Many parents report struggling to find formula on store shelves.
oknesanofa / Pixabay
Many parents report struggling to find formula on store shelves.

Parents around the country are struggling to find baby formula on grocery shelves, and southern Illinois is no exception.

Southern 7 Outreach Coordinator Shawnna Rhine said her agency is working with WIC recipients who need to switch formulas due to the shortage, though she cautioned that children with special nutritional needs will need to have a doctor's prescription to change brands.

Rhine said the agency is also available to help anyone wondering what to do during this shortage. She said recipes circulating online for homemade formula are not a good solution.

"Formula is not something that you can just whip up in the kitchen at home," she said. "There are certain things that need to go into that formula to provide the nutrition that that child needs. And again, if you've got a child that is lactose intolerant, or if you've got a child that, again, has an allergy to something or a digestive issue, whatever you're putting together is not going to meet that child's needs. Now your physician? They may have something for you, but again that's something you need to talk to them about."

Rhine said switching to breastfeeding isn't an option for all parents, and urged caution when it comes to donations of breast milk.

"We also have people that want to donate their breast milk. Be careful with that as well. Talk with your physician, if you have someone that's wanting to donate you their breast milk, maybe you have a friend that's also breastfeeding. Again, you want to make sure that your child's nutritional needs are being met and you also want to be sure that you know the person and can trust that person and know that person is healthy to make sure your child is getting what he or she needs," Rhine said.

She added parents should also avoid switching to cow's milk or other milk substitutes without speaking to a doctor.

Rhine said if families do find their brand of formula in stock, they should buy only what they need.

She said anyone who is unable to find their formula to let their local health department know. They can work with the state to determine what the exact needs are for their area, as the federal government works on increasing the supply of formula and distribute it to stores.

Steph Whiteside is a Digital Media News Specialist with WSIU radio in Carbondale, Ill. She previously worked as a general reporter at AJ+ and Current TV.
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