Infant formula shortage: Expert tips

For the past several months, the United States has experienced a severe shortage of baby formula. This has largely been due to formula recalls and supply chain problems.

You may be wondering what to do if you run out of formula for your baby. Can you use a substitution? What if you can’t breastfeed?

The NICU team and registered dietitians at University Health answer common questions and provide expert tips in this blog.

Check WIC, local retailers and social media

  • Contact your local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) office for places to check for formula and/or offer a list of alternative formulas.
  • Check smaller, locally owned stores (JC Food Mart), which may not be out of supply.
  • Call retailers to ask about their current supply and planned days of receiving shipment to coordinate shopping on those days and times. Most retailers replenish supply early in the week.
  • Shop online. Choose from well-recognized distributors (Amazon, buybuy Baby, Target, Walmart, Sams Club, Costco) rather than “auction” sites.
  • Check social media mom groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula. These groups may be able to provide information on where products are available or people who are willing to donate unopened/unexpired cans.

Can I mix different brands of formula?

The majority of babies can tolerate a mix of formulas including generic store brands, within an equivalent line of standard term formulas.

What if my baby needs special formula?

If your infant requires a specialized formula for known allergies or other medical conditions (renal, metabolic) and you are unable to find the prescribed formula, reach out to your pediatrician, pediatric specialist and or DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company for appropriate substitutions.

Previous preterm infants on preterm discharge formula can temporarily transition to term formulas if unable to find the prescribed formula at discharge.

If available, consider using ready-to-feed formula.

Avoid these practices

  • DO NOT try to make your own baby formula. This is not safe, it may not meet your babies’ nutritional needs and can be harmful or even fatal.
  • DO NOT dilute your current formula with water. Watering down baby formula is dangerous altering nutritional composition/electrolytes that can be harmful or even fatal to your infant.
  • DO NOT over purchase formula, as this could further diminish supply for others. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends buying formula for a 10-day to 2-week period.
  • DO NOT buy formula from overseas as it is not FDA regulated.

Ask your pediatrician

Call your local OBGYN or pediatrician to see if they have samples from local representatives.

Remember, we are here to support moms in their breast feeding/pumping journey and efforts in selecting and locating formula to feed their infants.

If you have received mixing instructions from a medical professional to provide higher calories and can’t find the prescribed formula, please contact your pediatrician or dietitian for alternate mixing instructions.

Subscribe icon
Get health living and wellness information, recipes, and patient stories from University Health.

Tell us your patient story

Share your inspiring personal story of hope and healing at University Health.