For parents of young children, the importance of baby formula can’t be understated. Ensuring that one’s child is getting the proper nutrition is a high priority for every parent, especially those with young babies. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a chain reaction of events that has trickled down to products such as baby formula — the lasting effects of which are still making it difficult for parents to find and purchase baby formula.
Understanding global supply chains and the reasons behind the shortage can help put the disheartening situation into perspective. In addition, understanding how to navigate the baby formula shortage and keep one’s children healthy can make life as a parent easier and maybe even a little less stressful.
What Is the Global Supply Chain and How Is It Affecting Baby Formula?
To understand the baby formula shortage, it’s important to understand global supply chain management and the ways that it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Global supply chains are a group of various entities that are linked in trade and rely on each other in order to produce, manufacture, and transport goods. Though it can seem a bit complicated at first, it’s actually a pretty simple concept once one gains some perspective.
An example of a supply chain would be the entities involved in the production of pencils. For lumber and rubber, various entities would have to collect these raw materials. These entities would then send the materials off to a manufacturer who then combines them with specialized machinery into pencils. After this, the pencils would be sent to a supplier. This supplier would then send the pencils out to various stores, allowing consumers to now purchase the pencils.
Now imagine what would happen if there was a problem with any one of these entities on the supply chain. The supply chain would slow down, and other links on the supply chain would have to wait, while consumers would have to wait as well. The COVID-19 pandemic created problems and setbacks for many entities on the supply chain in many countries, slowing the production and transportation of several goods. One of these goods, which is still dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic today, is baby formula.
As suppliers have had setbacks, baby formula has not been able to be produced, transported, and available to consumers like it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, various suppliers have recently dealt with certain formulas being contaminated, adding even more setbacks to an already strained supply chain. As a result, baby formula has been difficult for parents to procure and is even causing parents to unknowingly engage in some potentially dangerous practices.
How to Navigate the Baby Formula Shortage
For parents of babies living in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, navigating the baby formula shortage has proved to be tricky. With a shortage of baby formula, many parents are unaware of where they should turn and what they should do to provide their children with nutrition. As a way to deal with the baby formula shortage, some parents have been attempting to make their own baby formula. While this may seem like a good idea at first glance, it can actually have some negative consequences that many parents are unaware of.
According to Dr. Mykale Elbe, Director of the MSN Nurse Practitioner Program and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Maryville University, “[p]arents making their own baby formula [may lead] to electrolyte deficiencies and health problems [in babies] such as dehydration, convulsions, kidney and heart damage, and in some cases poisonings.” So, while it may seem like a viable option to parents to create their own baby formula, professionals would advise against it on the grounds that it could potentially result in severe and damaging health problems for babies.
Since making one’s own baby formula can be a risky practice, parents may be left wondering what exactly they should do to feed their children. When asked what parents should do about baby formula until the supply chains are fixed, Dr. Chrystina Monero, Ph.D., RN, PNP-PC, Adjunct Faculty for The School of Nursing at Regis College, states that “[f]or some [parents], introducing solid foods on the earlier side of [the] normal range [of between 4 and 6 months of age] may help close the gap between nutritional needs and formula availability.” Furthermore, Dr. Monero states that parents should explore alternative brands and even some foreign-made formulas which have been approved by the FDA.
When taking into account the recommendation of professionals in the field, a couple of things become clear. Firstly, parents should steer away from attempting to create their own baby formula during the baby formula shortage as parents can inadvertently introduce contaminants into their children’s diets.
Secondly, introducing solid foods on the earlier side of the recommended age range of 4-6 months may help lessen the effects of the baby formula shortage on one’s life as one may need less of it to provide one’s baby with the proper nutrition. And finally, it can be extremely helpful to explore baby formula alternatives such as foreign-made formulas which have been approved by the FDA — even when one becomes attached to a certain brand or formula.
One of the most powerful and trustworthy resources for parents is healthcare providers. Taking concerns about baby formula to healthcare providers is one of the best things that parents can do to help their children during these uncertain times. Each child is unique, and medical professionals will be able to assess what the best way to deal with the baby formula shortage is for each family. In addition, they may be able to connect parents with resources such as public assistance or various other services that can help provide baby formula.
Getting Through the Baby Formula Shortage
Though it may seem insurmountably difficult as of right now, the baby formula shortage will likely be remedied soon. In the meantime, parents have options for ensuring that their children are getting all of the nutrition that they need safely and consistently. When in doubt, parents should always turn to their healthcare providers who can offer guidance, instruction, and advice on how each unique family can deal with the baby formula shortage.