South Florida pediatrician offers advice to parents during formula shortage

WPTV hosts live discussion with Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, mom Sarah Elwell
WPTV journalist Stephanie Susskind speaks to pediatrician Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine and parent Sarah Elwell on May 18, 2022.jpg
Posted at 2:41 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 17:25:42-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Palm Beach County pediatrician on Wednesday offered advice to parents who are struggling to find much-needed formula for their babies during the current nationwide shortage.

WPTV journalist Stephanie Susskind hosted a live discussion on the WPTV Facebook page with Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine of Palm Beach Pediatrics, as well as South Florida mother Sarah Elwell.

Watch discussion in the video player below:

Pediatrician, mother discuss formula shortage

Fox-Levine said parents are constantly calling her office with questions.

"They worry, what if? There's that what if question," Fox-Levine said. "And what can they do in the meantime while they're hoping that production by the formula companies increases."

The doctor's takeaways are to never try to make your own formula because it can be very dangerous and lack the proper nutrients for your baby's growth and development.

"The formula companies have spent an inordinate amount of research and development funding to come up with what they say is pretty much identical to breast milk," Fox-Levine said. "It has those nutrients, micro-nutrients, the calories, the electrolyte balance. The right amount of sodium, the right amount of calcium.that your infant — who is doubling or tripling in size — is going to need for their growth and development."

Watering down formula is also a bad idea, Fox-Levine said.

If your child is on a specialty formula — which are currently the hardest to find in stores — talk to your doctor about whether it's still necessary and what alternatives are out there.

"Typically the first four months of life, the baby's G.I. tract is very sensitive and may need specialty formula. But after four months you may not need it anymore," Fox-Levine said. "To be able to work through that with your pediatrician, you may be able to go to the regular milk-based formula now."

Advice from pediatrician Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine to help parents navigate the nationwide formula shortage.

Elwell, a mother of two children, also joined Wednesday's live conversation on the WPTV Facebook page and offered advice on how she's networking to help others.

"I just stress checking in on our friends, making it vocal about what you need," Elwell said. "Someone may see it when they are out doing their everyday routine. And if they can help you locate it, then wonderful."

Facebook groups like Palm Beach County Formula Moms & Dads is another good resource to see what's out there.

"Crowdsource as much as you can to get your children what they need and be supported during this time," Elwell said. "It's showing parents what's available and where it is. We don't have time as it is. So if you can simplify that or possibly locate a formula easily for another parent, that's a very easy way to help."

Elwell also advised parents to check stores first thing in the morning, as many stores restock their supply overnight.

While we don't know how long this unprecedented formula shortage will all last, what we do know is the mom tribe is strong.

"I've seen the best in humanity over the past few weeks as we've banded together as parents in the community to try to help one another," Elwell said.

Abbott Labratories, a lead formula manufacturer, has reached an agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to restart production at its Michigan plant that was previously shut down.

The company said it could take six to eight weeks to get that formula on store shelves.