Need to navigate the baby formula shortage? Here's how

By Alanna Iacovetti

As supply chain issues, inflation, and the major formula recall rages on, the formula shortage continues to worsen — as of last week, formula stockpiles were 43% lower than normal nationwide, according to a report by Datasembly, a retail insights group.


This is such an incredibly stressful time for parents who are scrambling to find formula to feed their little one and figuring out what to do when they run out. While we wait and hope for a change, here are some of the options that you have to keep your baby fed. This advice is for urgent situations only, and is from the AAP healthychildren.org website.

Photo by Jaye Haych

What you can do

  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are.
  • Buy formula online until store shortages ease if you can. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites. The Similac website has a “find a retailer nearby” option, which can help you find your formula at a store in your area. Enfamil allows you to purchase online and pay in installments.
  • Speak to your pediatrician to see if they have any available. 
  • Toddler formulas are not recommended for infants, but can be used in emergencies for a few days for babies who are close to one year of age.
  • For most babies, it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as Elecare (no store brand exists). Ask your pediatrician about recommended specialty formula alternatives available for your baby.
  • Connect with other parents and check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician. Donor breast milk can also be an option, but it should come from a reputable source like a milk bank.
  • For babies over 6 months, parents with a limited supply of formula can try adding solid foods to increase calories. They can try just about anything that isn’t a choking hazard (except raw honey), like avocado, yogurts, fruits and vegetables. It's important to note that many children aren't ready for solid foods until they're closer to a year old, and while these foods help add calories, formula is still needed for the protein and fats found in it.

What should we avoid?

Cow's milk

While cows milk may be an option for babies over 6 months who are usually on regular formula, it is not ideal. If you absolutely have to use this option, it can only be for a brief period of time and it should not become a routine. The AAP doesn’t have a specific amount of cow milk that infants 6-12 months should drink in this situation, but you should follow the limits of no more than 24 ounces a day for children over a year of age. The most important concern with giving an infant over 6 months of age cow's milk is making sure they get enough iron to prevent anemia. Be sure to include plenty of iron-containing solid foods in their diet while you are using whole cow's milk. You may also talk with your pediatrician about giving your baby an iron supplement.


Plant-based milk

Milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under a year of age or infants with certain medical conditions requiring specialized formulas. Soy milk may be an option to give babies who are close to a year of age for a few days in an emergency, but always buy the kind that is fortified with protein and calcium. 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.


A few other things to remember … 

  • Don't try to water down your formula to “stretch it out” — It can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. 
  • Don't make your own formula at home. It is not safe and does not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
  • Don't import formula from overseas, since imported formula is not FDA-reviewed.


I am so sorry for all of the parents who are going through this right now. The FDA expects to release a plan to help ease the struggles of the formula shortage soon, and the FDA Commissioner, Robert Califf, stated that he expects the shortage to end by late 2022. I know that this seems way too far away for all of the parents who are stressing about how to keep their baby safe and healthy, but know that you have options. Please reach out to us with any questions.

1 comment

  • Yay for this from our president https://t.co/YDvDxKKLv7

    Abigail

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