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What to Do During the Baby Formula Shortage

What to Do During the Baby Formula Shortage

The baby formula shortage has gone from an inconvenience to a national crisis quickly. Relief could be weeks away and, in the meantime, doctors are encouraging people to work with their pediatricians to find appropriate alternatives, especially if your baby has allergies. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced it is taking steps to help improve supply of infant and specialty formula products. However, if you're struggling to find baby formula during the shortage, here are some tips that can help.

Note: This advice is strictly for URGENT situations. If you have any concerns about your baby's nutrition, please talk with your pediatrician.

What to do first

  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may have a supply of certain brand that larger stores do not.
  • If you can afford it, purchase formula online until store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites.
  • For most babies, it is safe 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. If specialty formula is needed, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.
  • 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.

Can I switch formula brands?

Most babies who use regular formula and are not medically fragile can switch to another brand. Pediatricians can recommend brands or generics that are safe for your baby if you have questions.

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.

Are these Alternatives Safe?

Cow Milk

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), pasteurized whole cows milk may be an option for a short period of time. Pediatrician Jonathan Williams adds "I recommend infants take an iron supplement if they're drinking cows milk to avoid iron-deficiency anemia (cow's milk can cause this in younger babies)." Cows milk is not ideal and should not become routine.

Goat 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.

Soy, Oat, or Nut 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. Change back to formula as soon as some is available.

Watered Down Formula

DO NOT dilute formula with water. Diluting your baby’s formula can interfere with their body's ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula. Occasionally, a baby who drinks too much water can develop a condition known as water intoxication, which can cause seizures. This occurs when too much water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the body, upsetting the electrolyte balance and causing tissues to swell. Therefore, you should never dilute your baby’s formula with water.

Homemade Formula

Medical providers and the FDA advise against homemade formula recipes. While it was common for parents to make their own formula before commercial powders rose in popularity, doctors and dietitians say homemade formula does not have the correct balance of vitamins and nutrients. The FDA reports that some babies fed homemade formula have been hospitalized for hypocalcemia (low calcium), for example.


HHS Formula Shortage Facts Sheet

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Guidance

FDA Guidance and Response

Contact an Ogden Clinic Pediatrician

Content last reviewed 5/18/2022