Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been significant shortages of infant formulas in some stores. Current shortages have been largely caused by supply chain issues and a recall of several contaminated baby formula products. It’s clear that many families continue to encounter challenges obtaining infant formula—especially families of about 5,000 infants as well as some older children and adults with rare metabolic diseases that depend on specialty formulas.
To help ease the impact of shortages, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises buying no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced it is taking steps to help improve supply of infant and specialty formula products. Production has ramped up 30to 50 percent, but there may still be challenges getting the formula to store shelves. If you're struggling to find baby formula during the shortage, here are some tips that can help.
No. While it may be tempting to water down formula to stretch it out, it is not safe to do that. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous. It can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.
The AAP strongly advises against homemade formula. Although recipes for homemade formulas circulating on the internet may seem healthy or less expensive, they are not safe and do not meet your baby's nutritional needs. Infant deaths have been reported from use of some homemade formulas.
The FDA is considering accelerated approval of certain imported formulas. Many sold in Europe, for example, contain adequate nutrients but must be imported in a way that maintains temperature and other safety issues. That's why FDA oversight is critical.
Toddler formulas are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age.
Formulas designed for babies who were born premature (and have "catch-up" growth to do) can safely be used for a few weeks to feed full-term babies if nothing else is available.
If your child is older than 6 months of age and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product for allergies or other special health needs), this may be an option. In a pinch, you could feed them whole cow's milk for a brief period of time until the shortage is better. This is not ideal and should not become routine. However, it is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula. Although we don't have a specific amount of cow milk that infants 6-12 months should drink in this situation, follow the limits of no more than 24 ounces a day for children over a year of age. See "Recommended Drinks for Children Age 5 and Younger."
The most important concern with giving an infant over 6 months of age cow's milk if you can't find baby formula 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 until you can find formula again.
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.
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.
Check the "use by" date on infant formula, which is required by FDA regulations to be on each container. Until that declared date, the formula will contain no less than the amount of each nutrient on the product label and will otherwise be of acceptable quality.
Don't hesitate to talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns you have about your baby's health and nutrition. If your child has special health needs, be sure to check with their doctor about medically appropriate and safe feeding alternatives.
If you are unable to readily find formula, please consult the following resources that may be able to assist:
Contact your local WIC office to identify or obtain additional sources of infant formula nearby.