Right now, baby formula can be hard to find. In some cases, baby formula is the only food you can feed your child—so knowing what to do when you can’t access any can be extremely stressful.
Here’s the most crucial information you need to know about the baby formula shortage, including the must-know do’s and don’ts of substituting formula.
This article does not substitute professional medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician before changing your baby’s diet.
1. Avoid wasting your supply of infant formula.
The best advice during the baby formula shortage is this: don’t waste the formula you already have. When it’s time to feed your baby, only fill their bottle with the amount of formula they will eat in one sitting.
Using this method could mean feeding smaller amounts more frequently until you figure out just how much is enough.
2. Consider switching baby formula brands
When your typical formula is out of stock, your best option is to switch to a different brand. When doing this, it’s important that you do not switch the type of formula. Parents can consult this list of comparable formulas to find an adequate substitution for their regular formulas.
Most babies will tolerate this change, but you can make it easier for them by slowly introducing the new formula and mixing it with the old one. Each feeding, introduce a higher ratio of the new formula until you’ve switched completely.
It’s normal for your baby to show signs of disliking the taste of the new formula, but you should call your doctor if your baby shows symptoms of intolerance to their new formula, including:
• gas pains
• insatiable crying fits during feeding
• weight loss
• blood present in mucus or feces
• constipation or straining
3. Try imported formulas.
Imported formulas are made outside the US but sold in US stores. To combat the baby formula shortage, stores are importing more and more formula. These products are approved by the FDA.
When using imported formulas:
• don’t purchase baby formula from unknown online stores (this formula could be counterfeit)
• avoid purchasing imported formulas from stores outside the US (use your best discretion here, some countries have adequate regulations for baby formula while others do not)
• read and follow the mixing instructions for powdered baby formula carefully (US standards will not apply, and you may need to convert measurements, including amount and temperature)
4. Access specialty formulas from Abbott with a prescription.
If you need a specialty formula for your child, talk to your pediatrician as soon as possible. Abbott is producing metabolic and amino-acid formulas, but supplies are limited. Your pediatrician can fill out a request for you, and the specialty formula will be shipped to you.
5. Talk to your pediatrician.
Even if you do not need a specialty formula, your pediatrician can help connect you with local resources to access formula or breast milk.
6. Contact a local milk bank.
Local milk banks exist to support mothers in need. Most of the milk goes to hospitalized babies, but you may be able to access clean human breast milk through an accredited milk bank.
When getting milk from a milk bank, ensure it is accredited through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Depending on where you live, you may need to ask your pediatrician for a prescription to access this resource.
7. Follow local online social media groups dedicated to baby formula and feeding.
Online groups on Facebook and other social media platforms can connect you to additional resources. Double-check any advice you find online with your pediatrician before taking action.
8. Be cautious receiving human breast milk from anywhere other than a milk bank.
Although asking a friend for breast milk seems harmless, there are health risks associated with feeding your baby milk from anyone other than their parent. We advise against this option unless it is a last resort.
9. Do not buy human breastmilk online.
Never purchase human breast milk online. Because there are no regulations for this, there is no way to know if the milk is diluted or contaminated with substances. You also won’t know if the donor has medical issues you need to know about or uses drugs (prescription or otherwise) that could harm your baby. There is also no guarantee that the milk was collected, stored, or transported safely.
10. Do not buy infant formula online from individuals or unknown retailers.
The same rules apply to infant formula sold online by individuals or sketchy retailers. You should only purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies because many people out there hope to take advantage of the situation and profit from counterfeit formulas.
11. Do not feed children 6-12 months cow’s milk for more than 7 days.
Children 6-12 months old can consume pasteurized whole milk for up to 7 days as a substitute for baby formula.
However, do not use this method for more than one week. Cow’s milk does not have the proper nutrients, so long-term use can affect your child’s kidneys and lead to blood loss.
This advice does not apply to children with specialty diets, and you should discuss this option with your pediatrician first.
12. Do not feed children under 6 months anything other than breast milk or infant formula.
Children under 6 months cannot drink anything other than infant formula and breast milk.
13. Do not make homemade baby formula.
Homemade baby formula is likely to cause health complications, including death. Do not make your own baby formula.
14. Do not water down your baby formula.
Never water down your baby’s formula. Watering down formulas can cause:
• electrolyte disorders
• low sodium levels
15. Do not use expired baby formula.
If you have any expired formula, do not use it. It could make your baby sick.
16. Do not hoard baby formula.
Hoarding formula will only exacerbate the supply chain issues. We recommend stocking only a 2-week supply of baby formula at a time.