The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday issued new emergency guidance for parents and caregivers of infants who can’t find formula.
If you’re struggling to find baby formula during the shortage, here are some tips from Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP, that the academy said can help in urgent situations:
- If formula at bigger stores is out of stock, check smaller stores and drugstores
- If you can afford it, buy formula online until shortages in stores ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies.
- It is fine for most babies to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless the 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.
- Check social media groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula. Members may share ideas for where to find formula. Check any advice with your pediatrician.
- Do not water down your formula. It is not safe. Watering down formula can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems.
- Do not make homemade formula. Recipes for homemade formulas may seem healthy or less expensive, but they are not safe and do not meet babies’ nutritional needs.
- Do not buy unregulated imported formula. The Biden administration’s plans to increase baby formula imports are not expected to have an immediate effect on tight supplies. Administration officials say getting imports into the U.S. supply chain will take several weeks. Because formula must be shipped in a way that maintains temperature and prioritizes other safety issues, FDA oversight is critical.
- Formula for toddlers is not recommended for infants. However, if no other options are available, babies who are near 1 year old can safely consume toddler formula for a few days.
- If nothing else is available, full-term babies for a few weeks can safely consume formula made for babies born prematurely.
- For children over 6 months, whole cow’s milk can be safe for a brief period of time. This is not ideal and should not become routine. However, it is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula. 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 can also talk with your pediatrician about giving your baby an iron supplement until you can find formula again.
- Goat’s milk is not approved in the U.S. for babies. 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.
- Plant-based milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under 1 year of age or infants with certain medical conditions requiring specialized formulas. Soy milk may be an option for babies who are close to 1 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 possible. Be especially careful to avoid almond milk or other plant milks often low in protein and minerals.