Emergency baby formula shipments arrive in DC area

It’s all hands on deck to get some 300,000 pounds of infant formula to the U.S. from other countries in less than 10 days during “Operation Fly Formula.”

Air shipments containing infant formula landed in Dulles, Virginia, and Dallas on Thursday as part of the program.

“Typically, it would take up to four weeks for us to receive the shipments of infant formula that are arriving in three days. It will allow us to get the formula on the shelves,” said Dr. Ala Stanford, regional director of Region 3 of the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is the third operation since supply disruptions, combined with a safety recall, left parents scrambling to get formula for their babies. In addition to the influx of formula from other counties, the Biden Administration has invoked the Defense Production Act, which Stanford says “allows us to get those raw materials that are needed for the infant formula immediately.”

It’s going to the hard-hit areas, with the greatest need first, she said.

Before the shipment of formula reaches store shelves, Stanford said the Food and Drug Administration will check the products first.

“This is a good time to mention to parents that the labels may look a little different. But rest assured that is infant formula,” she said.

It’s also a good reminder to be careful how much water to mix with the powder, as well as letting parents know that it is OK to mix old formula with new formula, she added.

“It takes a little while for your baby to acquire a taste, and they might think it’s nasty at first; but it’s OK, and that is normal for that to happen,” Stanford said.

Stanford also wanted parents to know about other options, including whether it may be OK for your baby to drink cow’s milk or switch to toddler formula.

“If your infant is 6 months and up, and they they’re not allergic to milk, they don’t have a lactose intolerance, it may be OK for them to drink cow’s milk, and that’s worth having a conversation with your pediatrician,” she said.

And if your child is 10 months (not quite one year), Stanford said allowing the toddler drink formula, which is not experiencing a shortage, might be OK for them as well.

“There’s no reason that a baby should go hungry, and so please seek out those resources,” Stanford said.

You can find answer to some questions you may have about the formula shortage as well as recommendations on the Health and Human Services website.

“Whatever you use, when you don’t have it, that creates an angst that no parent wants to feel about how you feed your baby,” Stanford said. “And what I would say is that less than six months, go to the shelves where you typically look, look at the milk banks, and if you don’t have it, please go to an ER, an urgent care, a hospital, your pediatrician.

“Don’t make your own formula, don’t water it down, there will be support for your baby.”

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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