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Home » Opinion | The Baby Formula Shortage: What Can Be Done

Opinion | The Baby Formula Shortage: What Can Be Done

by News Desk

To the Editor:

Re “Pelosi Promises ‘Urgent Action’ in House to Address a Shortage of Baby Formula” (news article, May 14):

If the baby formula shortage could last for months, then the Biden administration and nongovernmental organizations should try promoting the idea of breastfeeding. Not only would increased breastfeeding for those able to do so address supply side issues at the most local level, so to speak, but also breastfeeding is associated with numerous benefits for both mother and child.

These include decreased breast and ovarian cancer and increased postpartum weight loss for mothers; lower risk of mortality for breastfed babies; and some protection against Covid until vaccines become available for children younger than 5, as infants of vaccinated mothers who breastfeed can benefit from the mother’s antibodies.

Elizabeth Kagan Arleo
New York
The writer is a physician specializing in breast imaging.

To the Editor:

Re “F.D.A. and Maker of Baby Formula Reach Deal on Plant” (news article, May 17):

The immediate cause of the shortage was a potential bacteria outbreak at a formula manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition. The Food and Drug Administration closed the facility — and rightly so. The only thing worse than a baby formula shortage is unsafe and substandard products on retail shelves. The good news is that the F.D.A. has reached an agreement with Abbott on the steps needed to reopen the facility. The more somber news is that there is more work to be done to prevent such problems from happening again.

A key part of the solution is for the F.D.A. to undertake more regular and robust inspections — with a commensurate budget increase. Keeping industry on its toes serves to remind manufacturers of the urgency of safety and quality.

This situation is also a warning shot across the bow of the F.D.A. relative to shortages across its regulatory portfolio. Baby formula is a consolidated industry. There are only a handful of large players. When one plant goes offline, shortages follow.

The F.D.A. must undertake a review of all such consolidated products and develop a strategic plan should a major producer become unable to keep its plant open.

Peter J. Pitts
New York
The writer, a former F.D.A. associate commissioner, is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

To the Editor:

Re “A Shortage of Formula Spurs Parents to Try D.I.Y.” (news article, May 12):

I am a grandmother who recognizes that breast milk and F.D.A.-approved formula are the clear and best choices for infants. However, this shortage could last several months, and parents are going to search for other options if they cannot find formula.

I think it’s unconscionable for health officials not to give guidance on the best alternatives. To merely say “don’t make homemade formula” is not helpful in this emergency.

I have looked on the internet and I have seen recipes that include goat milk, raw milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, yogurt, bone broth, yeast, molasses, coconut oil, olive oil and many other ingredients. I do not know whether these are healthy or not healthy, but I do know that watered-down formula and crazy recipes can be harmful.

Please do the right thing and give parents the best alternative in a bad set of choices.

Beatrice Phear
West Tisbury, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “A Shortage of Baby Formula Is Distressing Families in San Antonio” (news article, May 11):

Media attention on the formula shortage has focused on desperate parents with very little attention given to the role of nonprofit milk banks to alleviate the problem and offer long-term solutions to ensure that all babies have access to human milk.

Today, insurance coverage of donor milk is reserved for premature and medically fragile infants in the hospital. And although financial assistance is available, few families can afford to purchase donor milk as outpatients. Yet all babies could have access to human milk through the support of breastfeeding, an adequate supply of donor milk by increasing awareness among lactating women with excess breast milk, and eliminating financial barriers by securing subsidies and insurance coverage.

Experts agree that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for all infants. All babies should be given the chance to start life with the best possible opportunity to survive, thrive and reach their full potential.

Linda Harelick
Valhalla, N.Y.
The writer is executive director of the New York Milk Bank.

To the Editor:

The decisions by Sweden and Finland (front page, May 13 and 14) to apply to join NATO are a well-deserved rebuke to Russia for its brutal invasion of Ukraine. But now NATO must plan carefully to avoid unnecessary provocation that could undermine nuclear stability.

NATO members want protection from Russia. Fine, but that does not mean that NATO should potentially threaten Russia with a Western attack. The U.S. should avoid deploying nuclear missiles or aircraft on Swedish or Finnish territory and should avoid “defensive” deployments, such as the Aegis Ashore antimissile radar system in Poland, that threaten nuclear deterrence. Washington says this system is meant to defend Europe against Iran, but Russia has long seen it as a challenge to its nuclear deterrent.

If Washington wants to end the Ukraine war diplomatically, it should welcome Russian participation in identifying, then removing, ways we threaten Russia militarily.

There are no winners in a nuclear war, and heightened tensions have raised the risk of an accident or miscalculation. While helping free nations resist Russian aggression, President Biden should openly cooperate with Moscow to reduce nuclear risk.

David Keppel
Bloomington, Ind.

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