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HOUSTON- There is a massive effort to combat baby formula shortages across the country. By June 19, more than 4 million 8-ounce bottles of infant formula are expected to have arrived in the US, including deliveries made to Fort Worth, Texas, and Dulles, Virginia. Still, it is not enough.
The current shortage of baby formula affects hospitals and neonatal intensive care units across the country. While the latest deliveries are helping with the shortage, formula for babies with digestive problems is still in short supply.
Dr. Amy B. Hair is the director of the neonatal nutrition program at Texas Children’s Hospital. She said the hospital has been working to support families during formula shortages. “It’s been a challenge for some time now. Not only in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but also for our families. Once they go home, finding formula is a huge stress for them.”
Now the hospital is expanding a program that could help many families.
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The shortage largely began three months ago, after the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] found a deadly bacterial contamination that led to a baby formula recall and closing a major manufacturing plant.
Region 6 Health and Human Services Regional Director Sima Ladjevardian applauded the agency’s efforts to obtain and receive more formula.
“Last week from Nestle-Gerber, we had 3.1 million cans. Some formulas delivered were specialty formulas,” Ladjevardian said, noting that deliveries reached multiple states.
Kristen Tucker, chief of lactation services at Texas Children’s Hospitals, said the special formula contains certain ingredients to help babies with medical problems and that moms need more. “There is no substitute for that formula except pasteurized donor breast milk.”
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Texas Children’s Hospitals executives said this is where their partnership with North Texas Milk Bank has been a saving grace. “We rely on them for pasteurized donor breast milk for our premature and medically fragile patients,” Tucker said.
At the height of the shortage, the hospital added a community milk donation site to ensure its most medically fragile babies who relied on nutrition to survive stayed fed. Now, it is expanding the program.
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“Since our launch in March 2022, more than 40,000 ounces of breast milk have been donated through our Texas Children’s Hospital site. We are expanding our community donation sites to all campuses as a next step. Unfortunately, this could come back to happen. We have to always keep our eyes on protecting our patients and making sure we have the necessary supplies,” Tucker said.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported that more special formulas should be available by June 20.