WIC helping during infant formula shortageAs a mother of young children, my heart aches when I see parents and caregivers facing a nationwide shortage of infant formula. There can be an overwhelming amount of information related to the early stages of parenthood, and unpredictable situations like this can add extra stress.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure formula has proper nutrition for health and development. Formula is specially designed to maximize the individual’s ability to absorb nutrients. Your pediatrician is the best place to start if you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition. 

Many families impacted in our state are participating in the Arizona Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The WIC program exists to promote healthy families and children. Driven by this goal, ADHS is working to help families navigate this situation. 

If you are unable to locate infant formula provided through WIC, please call your local WIC clinic for assistance. You may also contact the AZ WIC Shopper Helpline at 866.927.8390 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. You also can email [email protected]. Staff are available to help connect you with alternative infant formulas.

WIC families normally receive products made by Abbott Nutrition, maker of Similac brand infant formulas; at this time our staff and local WIC clinics are helping connect clients to alternatives until supplies return to normal. To provide families with more flexibility, we have since the beginning of the infant formula shortage made available additional can sizes of Similac and certain other brands for WIC families, and this will continue.

About half of WIC families receiving formula use Similac Advance Infant Formula, and supplies of that product are now fairly stable. About a third receive Similac Sensitive, for which store supplies have markedly increased in the past week. There also are increasing supplies of Similac Soy Isomil, used by a smaller number of WIC families. 

It is more difficult at this time to obtain Similac for Spit-up, Similac Total Comfort and certain other specialty formulas. Local WIC offices and AZ WIC stand ready to help connect families with alternatives. 

This shortage affects families statewide, not just WIC participants. With that in mind, we offer the following suggestions to everyone: 

  • Whether or not you are a WIC participant, involve your pediatrician if you have concerns about your infant’s nutrition. Your pediatrician may have advice on transitioning temporarily to another type of formula, for example.
  • Please use only FDA-approved formula. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has these resources explaining what you should look for in a formula (e.g. not expired, sealed and in good condition, NOT labeled for toddlers).
  • While acknowledging this is difficult for those without easy access to different types of stores, I encourage everyone who can to look beyond supermarkets and check whether pharmacies, convenience stores, or specialty stores may have the formula you need or an FDA-approved alternative. You also may be able to find formula online, though do check carefully to make sure it is FDA-approved. In some cases, you may be able to order directly from the manufacturer of your formula.
  • Please don’t attempt to make your own baby formula. Although recipes for homemade formulas circulating on the internet may seem healthy or less expensive, they may not be safe or meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Infants need a very specific balance of nutrients to grow. When breastfeeding is not an option, a formula approved by the FDA has what babies need.  You can find more information on this topic in this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • See additional resources on nutrition for babies. As nutrition can include a combination of feeding options based on baby’s growth and readiness, current and expecting parents can reach out to our 24-hour Breastfeeding Hotline. 

There’s good news in that infant formula production is back at full capacity and store supplies are beginning to stabilize. In the meantime, ADHS is here to help WIC families and to share advice that helps all parents during this challenging time.