Two children hospitalized at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital due to baby formula shortage

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Healthcare experts are calling it a national crisis. The baby formula shortage continues to impact families nationwide and right here in the Mid-South.

Baby formula is so scarce it’s not only difficult for families to find but also for hospitals that treat sick children.

Two children were being treated at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital as a direct result of the shortage. One was released Tuesday.

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FOX13 health reporter Mandy Hrach talked to the doctor who treated the children, Dr. Mark Corkins, a pediatric gastroenterologist.

In this case, both children have special medical needs that require them to use a specific formula. Neither doctors nor their families can find it on shelves.

Dr. Corkins said they’ve found ways to treat them, but it’s not a long-term solution.

“This is literally not just Memphis, not just Tennessee or the south. This is literally all of North America being affected,” Corkins said. “We are trying to do some different ‘doctoring’ formulas that aren’t usually used for this kind of situation and try to see if we can find something that will work.”

Dr. Corkins said he’s treated a toddler and a preschooler as a direct result of the shortage.

They both live with intestinal disorders and require a special kind of formula.

“They can’t absorb these other formulas, and they end up getting dehydrated and falling behind,” he said.

When their parents couldn’t find the formula on shelves, Dr. Corkins said they used a different kind, and their bodies didn’t tolerate the switch.

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He said he treated the children with IV fluids and nutrients until the formula becomes available.

“This is the way we were practicing 30 years ago when I started in pediatric GI. Some of the modern breakthroughs we had are now unavailable,” he said.

Dr. Corkins said he expects more children will wind up in hospitals if action isn’t taken soon.

He’s calling on state and U.S. leaders to step up efforts to fix the issue.

“I would like to see somehow that our folks work to prevent this. I don’t want this to ever happen again,” Corkins said.

Some moms are turning to Facebook to see what stores have formula available.

Monday, we told you about a group called ‘Memphis Formula.’ It now has almost 600 members. That’s nearly double from the day before.

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“We tried breastfeeding,” Victoria Daniels told FOX13. “She didn’t want to do it, and so I’m not able to pump anymore.”

As a first-time mother, Daniels never imagined finding formula for her daughter would be a challenge.

“I started noticing formula was becoming less and less available, and I was like, this is kind of weird. I didn’t think much of it until everyone was saying they couldn’t get any formula,” she said.

The shortage has some parents considering making their own formula, which could be dangerous.

“When you’re trying to make your own, are you going to get every single nutrient in there that you need? No, you aren’t. And you also worry about contamination, Dr. Corkins said.

Dr. Corkins said the critical age is the first six months because babies can only ingest formula or breast milk.

“If the child is 11 months old and well-nourished, it may be OK to go ahead and go to cow’s milk. They say to wait a year, but if you can’t find the formula and you’re gaining well, go ahead and change early,” he said.

If you need a specialty formula, Dr. Corkins said you should talk to your child’s pediatrician to see what the options are.

Daniels said she’s looking for other options.

“I think this should be kind of like a crisis situation because there is so many babies that need it,” she said.

Doctors say donor breastmilk is also safe, as long as the donor was tested for illness beforehand.

There is also an infant formula bank in Memphis called Sweet Cheeks. They said they are doing what they can to help mothers get through this shortage, but their supply is limited, too.

Parents can also visit the Free Formula Exchange.