BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As shortages of baby formula are being reported across the country, the Alabama Department of Public Health is giving parents advice on what they need to do.

“Although the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) does not have hard data on the extent of the shortage in Alabama, it is our understanding that the issue is related to several factors,” ADPH District Medical Officer Dr. Wes Stubblefield said in a statement released by the department. “Due to supply chain issues and labor shortages, manufacturers were already experiencing strained production. With the recall of some of the formula from Abbott (Similac), the strain worsened, and shortages started to appear.”

The ADPH said that infant formula can be generally found at retailers across Alabama, including small stores, larger chain stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and others. Local community food banks are another option for formula. However, the Women, Infants, and Children program offices at county health departments do not store stock of routine infant formula, nor does ADPH regulate the distribution or storage of formula.

“Although both ADPH and the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourage breastfeeding, there can be barriers to successful breastfeeding and many women must rely on formula,” the ADPH said in the statement.

Dr. Katrina Skinner, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Alabama chapter, said families who rely on formula should not dilute it with water, adding it can result in dehydration, weight loss and seizures. She also said families shouldn’t make their own formula, use cow’s milk or give babies plant-based milk due to those options not being nutritionally sufficient. Parents of babies who require a specific formula due to allergies and sensitivities should call their doctors for advice.

In addition, Skinner said donor milk is safe so long as standard guidelines are used. She recommends that parents use donor milk banks, where the milk is screened to make sure it is okay for consumption.

“Families should discuss safe alternatives with their health care provider,” Stubblefield said in the statement. “Families should also use caution when purchasing formula from internet sellers outside of well-known distributors. Purchasing formula from overseas can be dangerous as these formulas are not regulated by the FDA.”

Both the ADPH and the AL-AAP encourage families to try alternative brands of infant formula if their preferred brand is not available, including store brands. Other options include switching to a ready-to-feed product or liquid concentrate if powdered formula is unable to be located.