What To Do if You Can't Find Baby Formula
What not to do when it comes to replacing your baby’s formula
Children’s doctors and dietitians answered 4 common questions circulating about the formula shortage in 2022:
- Should I make my own baby formula? No. Feeding your baby homemade formula could actually make your baby sick or lead to major problems
- Should I water down my baby’s formula? No. Watering down powdered or premixed formula can harm seriously your baby. Even though you’re making it last longer, your baby can’t handle that much water
- Should I feed my baby toddler formula? No. Toddler formulas don’t provide the right nutrients your baby needs in their first year. In fact, there’s usually no need for formula at all after the first year. However, if your baby is close to a year old (and you have no other choice), toddler formula is safe for a few day
- Should I stock up on formula if I find it? No. Don’t panic buy or hoard formula supplies. Buying in bulk leads to empty shelves and formula expiring before consumption
- Should I introduce other milks? No. There may be some exceptions in case of a true emergency, but cow’s, goat’s and plant-based milks do not have the nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive.
Note: There have been reports of infant deaths from both homemade and watered-down formula. Babies younger than 6 months don’t need any water (other than what is required to mix with formula) and getting too much of it can be deadly.
What you can do if you don't have your regular formula
Here are some suggestions for what you can do if you can't access the formula you typically give your baby:
- Try store brand, or generic, infant formulas. Look for generic brands at most major retailers, such as Walmart, Target, Kroger, Costco and CVS.
- Shop around. Help and share with neighbors. Stay involved with parent groups to find stores with stocked shelves. Ask your pediatrician for samples. If your baby has weaned and you have unopened, leftover powder, donate it to a neighbor or through your pediatrician.
- Feed your baby age-appropriate solid foods starting at 6 months. Keep in mind that your baby will still get the majority of nutrition from formula or breastmilk until their 1st birthday.
- Support all moms. Always be kind to moms, regardless of how they feed their baby.
Additional resources and considerations:
- Reach out to manufacturers. Gerber has registered dietians and certified lactation consultants available by phone, text, Facebook Messenger, web chat or video call. Ask them to help you identify a similar formula to what you’ve been using that may be more readily available.
- Call your OB-GYN or pediatrician to see if they have in-office samples or can suggest a similar formula that may be more readily available in stores and is nutritionally similar to your infant’s typical formula. You can also ask them to submit an urgent product request by downloading and completing the urgent request form from Abbott (Abbott’s consumer hotline: 1-800-986-8540).
- Reach out to your local WIC office (if you’re eligible) to help you locate available formula.
- Contact United Way. Dial 2-1-1 to be connected to a community resources specialist who may be able to help you find food pantries and other charitable sources.
- Call your local food bank to see if it has any formula in stock.
- Find a Human Milk Banking Association of North America–accredited milk bank. Some milk banks are distributing donated breastmilk to families in need (a prescription from a medical professional may be required).
What if I need to feed my baby in an emergency?
If you can’t get any infant formula, and your baby needs to eat now, here are some last-resort options:
- Cow’s milk. In case of an emergency, babies older than 6 months (without any allergies or other specific health needs), may be offered plain, whole (full fat) milk for no more than 2 to 3 days. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not have a recommended amount, but it is suggesting no more than 24 ounces per day (again, for 3 days max). If you choose whole-fat cow’s milk, be sure to include iron-rich foods in your baby’s diet to help prevent anemia.
- Plant-based milks. In the case of an emergency, plain soy milk (fortified with calcium and protein) may be appropriate for a few days for babies closer to 1 year old. Note that most plant-based milks are low in protein and minerals and that you should switch back to formula as soon as possible.