Woman smiling at the camera
“It is clear from our study that comprehensive policy solutions are needed to address acute infant formula shortages and increase breastfeeding rates, especially during times of crisis,” says Denise Payán, UCI assistant professor of health, society & behavior. UCI Program in Public Health

Denise Payán, UCI assistant professor of health, society & behavior, was a member of a team of psychology and public health experts who investigated the impact of COVID-19 on infant food security and feeding practices in the U.S. The study, recently published online in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition, found that disruptions to formula supply and income increased the use of deleterious feeding practices. One in three families reported diluting formula with extra water or cereal, preparing smaller bottles, or saving leftover mixed bottles for later use; having to travel to multiple stores; or finding it too expensive. The team also found that mothers who fed infants human milk fed them more during the pandemic. Their reasons included breast milk’s immune-boosting benefits, the ability to work from home, concerns about money and formula shortages. However, 15 percent of these mothers didn’t receive the lactation support they needed, and 4.8 percent stopped breastfeeding. “Ultimately,” Payán said, “our study highlights the need to include infants in assessing national household food insecurity and the importance of addressing these issues through effective government policies and support systems.”