What Should I Feed My Baby if I Can’t Find Baby Formula in Stores?
I’ve noticed that my supermarket is running out of baby formula, and I’ve heard that there is a nationwide shortage. My baby is too young to start solids. What should I do if I can’t find formula?
There is indeed a national shortage of baby formula in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic created supply chain and staffing issues, and a recent recall of baby formula due to contaminated products from a key factory added to the problem.
Here are some tips on how to deal with the baby formula shortage:
- Talk to your baby’s doctor. They might have sample cans of formula available and also can ask the manufacturer for specific types of formula. You can also call a local hospital, office of WIC (the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), or an established breast milk bank. Women’s shelters, food banks, and faith-based organizations also might be able to help. Avoid using breast milk from friends, community members, or online sources. These donations may not have been properly stored or pasteurized and can contain germs or other harmful substances.
- Shop around. Try other stores that you may not have gone to in the past, especially smaller independent grocery stores, pharmacies, or baby supply stores. They might not run out of formula as quickly as bigger stores.
- Order online if you can. Make sure that the websites are well-recognized companies and not auction sites or online marketplaces that can’t guarantee safe products.
- Switch to any available formula. This should be OK for most babies unless they are on a specific type of formula for medical reasons. Store-brand formulas are less expensive. Check with your baby’s doctor if you are not sure about making a switch.
- Connect with other parents (in person or on social media groups). They might have extra formula or ideas about where to get some.
- Do not give your baby:
- homemade formula. This can be dangerous and has even led to infant deaths.
- watered-down formula to make it last longer. This is dangerous, as it reduces the amount of nutrients in each bottle. Always follow instructions on the package or recommendations from your baby’s doctor.
- goat milk or plant-based milks (like almond, rice, coconut, or oat milks) if your baby is younger than 1 year old. These milks lack the nutrients your baby needs for growth and development.
NOTE: Cow’s milk usually is only recommended for babies after their first birthday. In an emergency, though, babies 6 months of age and older who do not get a specific type of formula for medical reasons can drink cow's milk, but for no longer than a week and not more than 24 ounces per day. Cow’s milk does not contain enough iron for a growing baby. So, if you give your baby cow’s milk, also offer iron-containing solid foods or iron supplements. Soy milk also may be OK for a few days for babies who are close to 1 year old, as long as it is fortified with protein and calcium.
- formula you bought overseas. Foreign products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may not be safe. For this reason, goat milk formula is not an option for babies younger than 1 year old because infant-appropriate goat milk formulas are all made overseas.
- toddler formula. If your baby is nearing their first birthday, though, toddler formula can be OK for a few days.
If you run out of formula and can’t find any, in a pinch you can give oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or a store brand) for a couple of days. Babies older than 4 to 6 months can also get puréed (finely ground) foods. And remember that babies older than 1 year do not need to drink formula at all — most of their foods can be eaten as solids and they can drink milk or water.
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