KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WWMT) — A change in recommendation released Tuesday from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says babies as young as six months can drink cow's milk as a temporary alternative to formula when it's not an option.
There's a nationwide baby formula shortage leaving parents worried about how to feed their infants.
"When you're looking at feeding your baby, when a half of can of formula and you see the bottom of the can, that is so scary," Sarah Pasco, mother of 11-month-old twins, said.
Now, some parents, like Pasco, are questioning the timing behind the AAP's change.
"Why is six months the answer? Why isn't eight months the answer? Where did the six months come from? It's 100%, in my opinion, because we can't find formula," Pasco said.
Doctors are also questioning the change in the recommendation. Dr. Megan Sikkema, a pediatrician at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, said cow's milk hasn't been recommended for babies before because it lacks essential vitamins and minerals.
"That should really be a last resort and used when there isn't anything else to feed their infant; really for as short of a period as possible. As soon as we can get formula back on board, that is ideal," Sikkema said. "One of the risks with cow's milk in infants is anemia. So, if you're starting to give them cow's milk because there is no other option, you want to be sure to make sure you also add iron-rich food."
In the meantime, House Democrats have proposed a $28 million emergency spending bill to address the baby formula shortage. The funding would go toward increasing staffing at the Food and Drug Administration and boosting inspections to keep fraudulent products off the shelves. The House is expected to take up the emergency spending measure later this week.
Cow's milk should not be considered a temporary alternative for babies using specialty formulas for allergies or other special health needs without contacting your pediatrician first, Dr. Hanna Jaworski, division chief for pediatrics at Spectrum Health, said.
“If your baby is on a standard cow’s milk formula, not needing extra calorie supplementation, otherwise healthy, and you know you need to just bridge for a day or two, I think you are OK to use cow’s milk safely," Jaworski said. "Keep it at 24 ounces or less and get them to their formula or alternative formula as soon as possible.”
Using your preferred brand of formula should be your first option. If that's not available, look for a similar brand – and if that's not an option, cow's milk is a better temporary alternative than watering down formula or trying to create your own formula at home, Jaworski said.
“It’s weighing your risks, so what is riskier? Making your own formula or watering formula down or giving cow’s milk? In this particular situation, the answer, the least risky thing to do, is give the cow’s milk," she said.
Abbott Nutrition struck a deal with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reopen its baby formula factory in Sturgis, Michigan. The plant, which is Abbott's largest formula factory in the U.S., has been shut down for months following a recall of products. Once Abbott restarts formula production in Sturgis, the company said it will take six to eight weeks for the products to reach store shelves.