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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

How to find baby formula in Michigan. And how to keep your child safe.

baby feeding
Families struggling to find baby formula at retailers should contact their pediatrician or local health department for more options. (Shutterstock)

May 16: Michigan baby formula factory, Abbott, reaches deal with FDA to reopen

The national out-of-stock rate for baby formula went up to 43 percent this past week as suppliers sort out recalls, supply chain issues and a labor shortage. 

The formula shortages stem from ongoing pandemic-related supply chain snags, including manufactures having trouble getting key ingredients such as cow’s milk. Another factor is a recall of potentially contaminated baby formula produced at a Michigan factory, after four babies who had consumed the powder formulas were hospitalized with bacterial infections, with two dying.

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The United States Food and Drug Administration announced it is taking steps to increase baby formula supply, including working with Abbott Nutrition, the baby food manufacturer in Sturgis, which agreed to the voluntary recall. 

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Families that are a part of Michigan’s Women, Infant & Children’s program (WIC) are especially impacted because 85 percent of them use baby formula, according to Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the state Department of Health and Human Services. WIC is a federally funded assistance program administered by the state for pregnant women, mothers and young children. 

“WIC will continue to communicate directly with affected clients as additional information around formula flexibilities emerges,” Sutfin said in an email to Bridge Michigan. 

Here is what to know if you are struggling to find baby formula:

How do I know if my baby formula is recalled?

According to the FDA, baby formula has been recalled if: 

  • the first two digits of the lot code on the bottom of containers of Similac, Alimentum or EleCare powered baby formula are 22 through 37, and
  • The container code contains K8, SH or Z2, and 
  • The expiration date is 4-1-2022 or later

Also recalled by Abbott is Similac PM 60/40 with a lot code of 27032K80 (can) / 27032K800 (case).

Who should I contact if I can’t find baby formula?

The best resources to contact if you cannot find powdered baby formula at a retailer near you are your family pediatrician or a nearby hospital. This is especially important if your baby requires a specialized formula and finding substitutions could be more difficult. Experts will recommend alternatives that are most suitable for your baby. 

Where should I order baby formula?

The safest option is ordering baby formula from the manufacturer. Health experts warn people to be wary of buying formula from places like Amazon because it hosts third-party sellers. Michigan’s Women, Infant & Children’s website will have a list of formula alternatives if your store is out of your preferred brand. 

What if I can’t order from the manufacturer?

If you can’t order from your manufacturer, try checking local food banks and local health departments. Pregnant women, new and breastfeeding moms, and children under the age of 5 can get help through the Michigan WIC program. You can find your nearest WIC clinic here. 

What formula alternatives are not safe for my baby?

While diluting baby formula to make it last longer may be tempting if you can’t find any, health experts warn not to do so. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, watering down formula is dangerous and can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby. 

The AAP also strongly advises against homemade baby formula. Babies need a specific balance of nutrients and homemade formula may not meet their needs. According to the FDA, some babies fed homemade formula have been hospitalized after not getting enough calcium. 

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The AAP also advises against substituting toddler formula for baby formula unless you have no other choice, in which case the substitute formula is okay for a few days for babies close to age one. 

Cow or nut milk are also not suitable substitutes for babies under six months old. These milks often lack the nutrients babies need, like iron. 

What about buying breast milk?

If you can’t find your baby’s formula, you can try buying safe, pasteurized breast milk from donors at milk banks. The MDHHS’s website lists places to get breast milk and where you can donate breast milk. 

You should not informally share breast milk, according to the FDA and the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. There are potential risks if the breast milk is not screened for illnesses or medications. 

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