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How to handle the baby formula shortage in central New York

The formula shortage hits central New York families
Jessica Cain
The formula shortage hits central New York families

A nationwide shortage of baby formula is hitting central New York parents hard, especially those with limited options.

Kristin Losier, director of client services at New Hope Family Services, said the organization has been affected by the baby formula shortage since a major recall several months ago.

Now, between the pandemic, inflation, and limited supply, she’s seeing more and more families who are suffering.

"It can be really hard because we have clients who are just so desperate,” said Losier. “They call and they say, ‘Hey, I have one can of formula left, and I can't find any more.’”

Losier said it’s especially difficult because donations in general have been decreasing because of the shortage. Many people either don’t have extra formula or are giving it to close friends and family members who need it. However, she still encourages anyone who needs assistance to reach out to New Hope Family Services to see if the organization can help.

"I think our world goes through seasons a lot, and I think we'll get through this one, too,” said Losier. “But it is such a tough time, and we understand that if they ever need someone to talk to, they can always come here, and we'll help them emotionally and physically if we can."

New Hope Family Services is just one of several local organizations working hard to match families to formula as the crisis continues.

Dr. Winter Berry, an associate professor of pediatrics at SUNY Upstate, said in addition to reaching out to local agencies or pediatricians for help, there are some things parents can try on their own to weather the shortage, including making switches that are relatively safe.

"Things like Similac Pro Advance or Pro Sensitive, a baby could very easily make a switch to a typical or entry brand Enfamil product like Enfamil infant or Neuropro even AR or Gentlease," said Berry.

She said parents can also substitute their usual formula for the generic equivalent or try shopping at smaller stores or pharmacies to hopefully find a better supply.

Parents of ten and eleven month old babies can focus more on offering food, but Berry said it’s a good idea to aim to still give those older babies three bottles a day.

Berry said parents should not water down formula to make it last longer, substitute cow’s milk or a cow’s milk alternative, or buy open formula on the internet.

Also, although recipes are making their way around social media, Berry said it is not a good idea to try making your own formula.

"It's actually really difficult to replicate the kind of complete nutrition that formula manufacturers do,” said Berry. “Any of the brands have pretty complex nutritional contents, and it can't be replicated by a home recipe."

Berry said there are children who need very specific formulas, so when in doubt, consult your pediatrician.

For more help, Berry recommended families can reach out to 211 CNY, WIC, Help Me Grow Onondaga, or theNew York State Department of Health.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.