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'Don't add water' | Health professionals give parents tips on dealing with baby formula shortage

Baby formula shortages have forced some retail chains to limit customers to purchasing just three bottles of formula per transaction.

INDIANAPOLIS — A baby formula shortage in many parts of the U.S. is forcing retailers to ration their supplies.

That's leaving many parents struggling to find enough food for their baby.

The shortages have forced some retail chains to limit customers to purchasing just three bottles of formula per transaction.

Part of the problem stems from an Abbott Nutrition recall in mid-February for Similac and other formulas made in Michigan.

Some experts have said formula supplies were limited even before then.

Dr. John Kunzer with Community Health Network said it's OK for parents to change brands, as long as they use the same type of formula.

"The big thing we want folks to do is to make sure they don't try to skimp, or do things on their own by diluting out the formula to try and make it last longer. Don't add water," said Kunzer.

Kunzer and other help professionals say doing so can cause nutritional deficiencies.

"They won't get enough carbohydrates for their brain or protein for growth or any of the other vitamins and minerals. You definitely don't want to mix anything and have the wrong ratio," said Wendy Cruse, clinical nutrition manager at Riley Hospital for Children, who also manages the Milk Lab Clinical Program.

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Cruse said hospital staff in the Milk Lab has faced similar problems trying to meet patients' needs.

"It's usually those moms that have tried everything and they have found the product that their child tolerates and if it's hard to get that, then that's challenging," she said. "I think there's definitely a group of babies that need low mineral formula if they have renal insufficiencies or kidney problems, if they have metabolic disorders, if they have severe allergies, those are the ones that are struggling the most."

Kunzer said parents should buy enough formula for a child to last 10 days or two weeks and avoid hoarding.

Kunzer also stressed to parents to avoid substituting formula for milk.

"We don't want parents trying to say, 'Oh, I'll just now give my 3-month-old cold milk. Really we want to hold off on whole milk until kids are a year. If you give whole milk earlier to kids less than a year, that too can cause some problems," said Kunzer.

Kunzer and Cruse both said anyone choosing to purchase formula online should do so from trusted stores and major pharmacies.

They advise doing your research to avoid scammers and sites that are not reputable. Also, check with home care companies or reach out to a friend.

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