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National Formula Shortage: How Can I Safely Feed My Baby?

A Father Bottle Feeds His Baby Who is Swaddled in His Arms.

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Over the last two years, we’ve not only faced a global health crisis, but we’ve also seen major impacts on the supply chain due to the pandemic. From cars and toilet paper to baby formula, these shortages impact our daily lives. The voluntary recall of formula by a major manufacturer in February 2022 strained the supply chain even further.

“Over 40% of baby formula is currently out of stock across the United States,” says Dr. Miles Landis, AdventHealth for Children pediatrician. As a parent, you may be worried about how you’re going to feed your baby when you can’t find formula on the shelves.

We feel your stress and want to share safe ways to get what your baby needs. Here are some tips on finding baby formula amidst the shortage and suggestions on what you may safely consider if you absolutely can’t find any.

“Remember, these suggestions are strictly during this urgent formula shortage,” cautions Dr. Landis, “if you are concerned about your baby’s nutrition, talk with their pediatrician.”

What To Do if You Can’t Find Your Baby’s Formula in Stores

You’re running low on baby formula and you visit your regular grocery store to pick up some more when you see the shelves on the formula aisle bare. You drive to a few other big box stores in your area but find the same empty shelves at every location. Here are some other places you can look to find the formula your baby needs.

  • Visit drugstores in your area which may not be out of supply when bigger stores are. Drugstores like CVS or Walgreens may not be your typical place to buy formula, but they sometimes have stock when other stores don’t.
  • Check online stores like Amazon. “Make sure you purchase from a well-recognized distributor, grocer or pharmacy rather than auction sites,” advises Dr. Landis.
  • Local food banks may have smaller stocks of baby formula. If you can’t find any online or at a smaller store, consider visiting a food pantry if you qualify. You can find one near you at FeedingAmerica.com.
  • If none of these options are successful, call your pediatrician. “Your pediatrician or specialists may have samples in stock or connections with other local organizations to help you find your baby’s formula,” says Dr. Landis.

“If you find baby formula in stock, you may be tempted to buy as much as you can, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises buying no more than a 10-day to a 2-week supply of formula to ease shortages and leave some for other families also in need,” explains Dr. Landis.

Baby Formula Shortage Frequently Asked Questions

In situations like these, we know that you must have many questions about what you can or can’t do to safely feed your baby. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received throughout the baby formula shortage to help you find peace of mind.

“If you don’t see your question listed here, call your pediatrician. They would be more than happy to answer any of your questions or concerns as you maneuver through these challenging times,” assures Dr. Landis.

Can I Switch to a Different Baby Formula?

If you find a similar formula, it is OK to make the switch. Babies are resilient, and they will likely do just fine with different brands if they are the same type of formula. To make the transition easier, slowly introduce small amounts of the new formula mixed with the usual formula. You can check out this resource by the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition for a list of comparable formulas.

“If you use a special formula for allergies or other special health needs, talk with your baby’s pediatrician or specialist before making the switch,” advises Dr. Landis.

Can I Add Extra Water to Baby Formula?

If your last container of baby formula is getting low, you may be tempted to start watering it down. This is extremely dangerous and should not be done. “Adding extra water to formula can dilute the levels of protein and minerals and lead to low sodium in the blood and other electrolyte disorders that may require hospitalization,” warns Nicole Couch, MS, RD, CSPCC, CNSC, Pediatric Neonatal Dietitian at AdventHealth for Children.

Can I Make My Own Baby Formula?

There have been dozens of homemade baby formula recipes circulating on the internet and social media over the last few weeks. Homemade baby formula is not safe.

“Online recipes have significant safety concerns regarding contamination and nutrient concentrations,” explains Dr. Landis, “some babies have been hospitalized from reported use of homemade formulas.”

In fact, the FDA issued a warning in 2021 that there had been an increase in infant hospitalizations due to low calcium and other nutritional imbalances that can be life-threatening.

Is Cow’s Milk a Safe Alternative to Baby Formula?

If your baby is older than six months of age and is usually on regular formula, cow’s milk may be a temporary option, though not an ideal solution. “The main concern with giving cow’s milk to a baby that is over six months old, on a long-term basis, is that it does not contain enough iron,” explains Couch.

It’s important to not feed them cow’s milk for more than a week and to supplement their meal with iron-containing foods, like meat, iron-fortified cereals or infant multivitamins with iron.

How Long Can Baby Formula Be Used Past a “Best By” Date?

If you have a container of baby formula sitting in your pantry for too long, or you grab some at your local food bank, it is important that you check the “best by” date. “Formula should not be used past the ‘best by’ date because it may no longer be safe or have the required levels of nutrients,” says Couch.

If the baby formula you have on hand is expired, throw it away and try the other suggestions to ensure your baby is well-fed.

How Can Moms Help During The Shortage?

For new moms who are breastfeeding and overproducing breast milk, AdventHealth for Women is proud to offer milk depot locations in Orlando, Daytona Beach, and Waterman. To donate, call the Mothers' Milk Bank of Florida directly at Call407-248-5050 or visit https://milkbankofflorida.org/faq/donate-milk/ to learn more.

Here to Help Keep Your Baby Healthy

These are trying times for new moms and dads. At AdventHealth for Children, we’re committed to helping keep you and your baby healthy. If you’re concerned about your baby’s nutrition or need help finding baby formula, there is no shame in calling your pediatrician for help. We are happy to be extending care to your family and helping you and your little one feel whole. Click here to find a pediatrician close to home.

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