Nothing is more important to families than the health and safety of their babies, and the shortage of formula milk has many people feeling anxious about how they will feed them. Some young children, teenagers and adults with medical needs also rely on formula for their nutrition. They may also be affected by the shortage.
We know it’s not easy to change your baby’s diet. However, if you can’t find formula in stock, here are some tips for finding safe substitutes.
Find safe substitutes
The information provided reflects input from physicians and other experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN).
Try a new brand formula
Note: Children under the age of 6 months should drink only breast milk or formula. Talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider if you’re having trouble breastfeeding or finding formula.
Most babies will do well with different brands of formula, including store brands, as long as they are of the same type, such as cow’s milk-based, soy-based, hypoallergenic (highly hydrolyzed), or elemental (amino acid-based). Keep in mind that your baby may seem to dislike the taste or may have difficulty tolerating a different formula at first. If this happens:
- Try slowly introducing small amounts of the new formula by mixing it with your regular formula. Slowly increase the amount of the new formula over time.
- Be patient as it may take some time for your baby to get used to it.
- If your baby is throwing up, has gas, cries or can’t settle during feedings, is losing weight, has diarrhea, has blood or mucus in his stools, or is straining to poop, he may not tolerate the new formula. Call your pediatrician or other health care provider if you have any questions.
If you need help figuring out which formulas you can replace:
- Your pediatrician or other health care provider is always the best resource because they know your baby and their health history.
- You can also check out this list of comparable formulas developed by an organization of pediatric gastroenterologists called NASPGHAN. Note that this list focuses on formula substitutes that were part of the February 2022 recall, so you may not see your baby’s formula listed here. Any replacement should only be done on the recommendation and under the supervision of your pediatrician or other healthcare provider.
- Learn more about preparing and storing formula.
Try a formula that is made in another country
You may also consider purchasing formula made outside of the United States in US stores. Stores will begin to offer or may already have these options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed these formula companies to market certain products in the United States and may allow more formula products that meet its criteria to be sold in the US. When preparing formula made in other countries:
- Carefully read the mixing instructions for preparing powdered formulas. They may require different amounts of powder or water than formulas made in the USA
- Use the FDA conversion chart to convert milliliters to fluid ounces and the usual Celsius (°C) to Fahrenheit (°F) conversions.
Consumers should be careful when purchasing formula made outside the US online markets, as it has the potential to be fake. Learn more about how to spot fake baby foods: What are fake baby foods? How can I avoid buying such products?
Talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider about hypoallergenic or specialty formula substitutes.
If you need a hypoallergenic or special medical formula, it may be more difficult to find a substitute. Talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider about acceptable substitutes. Depending on which formula your baby needs, your doctor can place an emergency request for a specialist formula with Abbott Nutrition, who are releasing some special and low-iron formulas for each case.
Feed your baby safely
If you can’t find enough formula, there may be some short-term options that can help in an emergency. You should also be aware of serious safety concerns associated with some alternative feeding preparations for your baby. Always talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider first if you don’t have enough formula to feed your baby.