What to Do During the Baby Formula Shortage - Nemours Blog


What to Do During the Baby Formula Shortage

You may have noticed a shortage of baby formula on store shelves these days. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused supply chain and staffing issues, and a recent recall of baby formula due to contaminated products from one factory has added to the problem.

If you are formula feeding your baby, you may worry about how you will continue to feed your little one.

Here are some tips on how to navigate the baby formula shortage.

What to do:

Talk to your baby’s doctor, who may have some sample cans of formula available. You can also call a local hospital, breast milk bank, or office of WIC (the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). Women’s shelters, food banks, and faith-based organizations might also be able to help.

  • Shop around. Try other stores that you may not have visited in the past, especially smaller independent grocery stores, pharmacies, or baby supply stores. They may run out less quickly than bigger stores.
  • Order online if you can. Make sure that the websites are well-recognized companies and not auction sites or online marketplaces that can’t guarantee safe products.
  • Switch to any available formula. This should be ok for most babies unless they are on a specific type of formula due to medical reasons. Store-brand formulas are less expensive. Check with your baby’s doctor if you are not sure about making a switch.
  • Connect with other parents (in person or on social media groups) who might have extra formula or ideas where to get some.

What not to do:

  • Don’t give your baby homemade formula. This can be dangerous and has even led to infant deaths.
  • Don’t give goat milk or other plant-based milks (like almond, rice, coconut or oat milks) to babies under one year of age. These milks lack the types of nutrients your baby needs for growth and development.
    • NOTE: Cow’s milk usually is only recommended for babies after their first birthday. In an emergency, though, babies 6 months of age and older who do not get a specific type of formula for medical reasons can drink cow’s milk, but for no longer than a week and not more than 24 ounces per day. Cow’s milk does not contain enough iron for a growing baby. So, if you give your baby cow’s milk, also offer iron-containing solid foods or iron supplements. Soy milk also may be OK for a few days for babies who are close to 1 year old, as long as it is fortified with protein and calcium.
  • Don’t water down the formula to make it last longer. This is also dangerous for your baby, as it reduces the amount of nutrients in each bottle. Always follow instructions on the package or given by your baby’s doctor.
  • Don’t buy formula in large amounts to stock up at home. This will further add to the current problem. Some stores may not allow you to do that anyway. Experts suggest buying enough to last 10 days to 2 weeks at a time.
  • Don’t bring formula in from overseas. Foreign products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may not be safe.
  • Don’t use toddler formula for young infants. If your baby is nearing their first birthday, toddler formula can be ok for a few days.
  • Don’t use breast milk that has been shared by people in your community or bought from the internet. Breast milk that does not come from an established breast milk bank may not have been properly stored or pasteurized. It may contain germs or other harmful substances.

If you have completely run out of formula and can’t find any, in a pinch you can give oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or a store brand) for a couple of days. Babies older than 4 to 6 months can also get pureed, or finely ground, foods. And remember that babies older than one year do not need to drink formula at all, since most of their foods can be eaten as solids and they can drink milk or water.

Learn more: https://www.hhs.gov/formula/index.html

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, MPH

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, MPH is a general pediatrician and a medical editor at Nemours KidsHealth.