QUESTION: With the baby formula shortage, what should I do if I can't find any locally?
- If baby formula is out of stock everywhere you look: call your pediatrician - they may have samples in stock, connections to other local organizations, or ideas of other places to call, such as your local WIC clinic. Also check smaller stores and drug stores, and try a search on local social media groups. If you can afford it, try buying formula online until the store shortages ease... making sure to purchase from well-recognized distributors, grocers, and pharmacies.
I found small amounts of several different baby formulas. What is the best way to swith among the brands?
- For most babies, it's ok to switch to any available formula, as long as they are the same type. There are some exceptions, such as if your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula. If your baby does not like the taste or has a hard time tolerating a different formula, you may want to try gradually introducing small amounts of the new formula mixed with the usual formula. Slowly increase the amount of the new formula. Be patient, since it may take some time for your baby to get used to a new formula. If you have questions about whether your baby is tolerating the new formula, call your pediatrician.
My infant needs a specialty metabolic baby formula, but I can't find any. What should I do?
- Abbott is releasing limited quantities of Similac PM 60/40 and other metabolic formulas for babies in urgent need. Your pediatrician's office can fill out a request and, if it is approved, the formula can be shipped to your home. In addition, talk to your pediatrician about safe, comparable specialty formulas.
Only one brand of baby formula is covered under WIC, but I can't find any. What should I do?
- Most states are allowing parents who use WIC benefits to buy other brands of baby formula or different sizes and forms, like ready-to-feed formula. To find out what your state is allowing, you can check this chart: Status of Infant Formula Recall.
I have a 3-month-old infant and can't find my usual baby formula. What should I do?
- If you can find another similar formula, it's ok to make the switch. If you use a special formula for allergies or other special health needs, here is a list of comparable formulas: Possible Substitutions for Recalled Formulas.
Can I add extra water to formula and give my baby a multivitamin to make up the nutrients?
- This should NEVER be done, as adding extra water to formula can dilute the levels of protein and minerals, and lead to low sodium levels in the blood, as well as other electrolyte disorders that may require hospitalization. Always follow label and/or your pediatrician's instructions.
Can I make my own baby formula? I've seen a recipe online using evaporated milk that people say was used safely in the 1940s.
- No - mixing evaporated milk (also known as unsweetened condensed milk) with water can cause contamination or an incorrect balance of nutrients. For similar reasons, it's not recommended to use homemade baby formula. Using homemade baby formula can harm your infant, and some babies have been hospitalized from reported use of homemade formulas.
What is the earliest age I can start giving my baby solid food to stretch my formula supply?
- Solid foods shouldn't be used to stretch baby formula supply. Formula contains all of the nutrients young babies need, while solid foods may not. Infants are generally ready to eat solid food when they are about 6 months old, but it depends on their stage of development. Thus, talk with your pediatrician about when your baby may be ready for solid foods.
Is it safe to get breast milk from a friend or online group?
- It's best practice to check with a local milk bank that is accredited through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. To find an accredited milk bank, check here: Find a Milk Bank.
I heard the government will be importing baby formula from other countires. Is that safe?
- European baby formulas are regulated by the European Food Safety Agency (similar to how the FDA regulates U.S. formula) and are highly reliable.
Can toddler "formula" substitute for regular baby formula?
- Toddler drinks are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, these products can be safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age.
Can I give my full-term baby premature formula?
- Formulas designed for babies who were born premature can safely be used for a few weeks to feed full-term babies if nothing else is available.
Is cow's milk a safe alternative to baby formula?
- If your child is older than 6 months of age and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product), this may be an option. In a pinch, you could feed them whole cow's milk for a brief period of time (no more than a week.) Once concern with giving cow's milk to a baby who is 7-12 months old on a long-term basis is that it doesn't contain enough iron, which can lead to anemia. If you have to use cow's milk, be sure to give your baby plenty of iron-containing solid foods, such as baby food made with meat, or iron-fortified cereals.
Can I feed my baby goat's milk?
- Goat's milk is not approved for babies in the United States. However, there are goat milk-based baby formulas registered in other countries that may be among those considered for accelerated import approval by the FDA.
Can I used plant-based milk instead of baby formula if needed?
- In general, plant-based milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under a year of age. Soy milk may be an option to give babies who are close a year old during the shortage, but not for more than one week. If you can't find formula and have to use soy milk, be sure to buy the kind that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and make sure to change back to formula as soon as some is available. Be especially careful to avoid almond milk or other plant milks, as these are often low in protein and minerals. Talk with your pediatrician if you are considering using plant-based milk.
How long can baby formula be used past a "best by" date?
- Generally, formula should not be used past the "best by" date because it may no longer be safe or have the required levels of nutrients.
Lastly, this formula crisis is hitting families who are already grappling with the stresses of parenting young children in a pandemic. While it can be tempting to buy as much formula as possible right now, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises buying no more than a 10-14 day supply of formula to help ease shortages. If you have any concerns about your baby's nutrition, please talk with your pediatrician.
These tips were summarized from the AAPs' website at healthychildren.org. For more details, please visit: Are there shortages of infant formula due to COVID-19?