Nothing is as important to families as the health and safety of their babies, and the lack of infant formula has left many people concerned about how to feed them. Some young children, adolescents, and adults with medical needs also rely on formula for their nutrition. They too could be affected by the shortage.
We know that changing your baby’s diet isn’t easy. However, if you can’t find a formula to stock, here are some tips on 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 & Nutrition (NASPGHAN).
Try a new formula brand
Note: Children under 6 months should only drink breast milk or infant formula. Talk to your pediatrician or other healthcare provider if you’re having trouble breastfeeding or finding infant formula.
Most babies 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, hypoallergenic (largely hydrolyzed), or elemental (amino acid-based). Keep in mind that your baby may not like the taste or may have trouble tolerating a different formula at first. When that happens:
- Try slowly introducing small amounts of the new formula by mixing it with your regular formula. Slowly increase the amount of new formula over time.
- Be patient as it may take some time for your baby to get used to it.
- If your baby is vomiting, has gas, is crying or can’t be soothed while breastfeeding, is losing weight, has diarrhea, has blood or mucus in their stool, or is struggling to poop, they may not tolerate the new formula. Call your pediatrician or other healthcare provider if you have questions.
If you need help figuring out what formulas you might be able to substitute:
- Your pediatrician or other healthcare provider is always the best source as they know your baby and their medical history.
- You can also check out this list of comparable formulas developed by an organization of pediatric gastroenterologists called NASPGHAN. Keep in mind that this list focuses on substitutes for formulas that were part of the February 2022 recall, so you may not see your baby’s formula here. Substitution should only be done on the recommendation and under the supervision of your pediatrician or other healthcare provider.
- Learn more about preparing and storing formulas.
Try formula made in another country
You may also consider purchasing formulas made outside of the United States in US stores. Stores will offer these options or may already have them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted these formulators to market certain products in the United States and may allow more infant formula products that meet their criteria to be sold in the United States. When making formula made in other countries:
- Read the mixing instructions carefully to prepare powdered formulas. They may require different amounts of powder or water than formulas made in the US
- Use the FDA’s conversion chart to convert milliliters to fluid ounces and common Celsius (°C) to Fahrenheit (°F) conversions.
Consumers should exercise caution when purchasing formulas manufactured outside of the United States online marketplaces, as it may be fake. Learn more about how to spot counterfeit baby formula: What is counterfeit baby formula? How can I avoid buying such products?
Talk to your pediatrician or other healthcare provider about substitutes for hypoallergenic or specialty foods.
If you need hypoallergenic or specialty medical foods, it can be more difficult to find a substitute. Talk to your pediatrician or other healthcare provider about acceptable substitutes. Depending on what formula your baby needs, your doctor may be able to make an urgent request for a special formula to Abbott Nutrition, who will issue some special and low-iron formulas on a case-by-case basis.
Feed your baby safely
If you can’t find enough baby formula, there may be some short-term options that can help in an urgent situation. You should also be aware of the serious safety concerns associated with certain alternative formulas for feeding your baby. Always talk to your pediatrician or other healthcare provider first if you don’t have enough formula to feed your baby.