Feeding Infants During a Formula Shortage

Advice for Families

  • Baby getting fed with bottle

Many parents are, rightfully, concerned about the formula shortage right now and are looking for solutions to get through this dangerous time. Although it is tempting to find homemade recipes, it is NOT recommended to make your own formula. Infants are still building their immunity and are a high-risk population, thus food poisoning and kidney damage are a real danger for them. UNH Extension’s Healthy Living Program Manager and Registered Dietitian, Kate Graves, shares these recommendations for families:

Recommended:

  • Reach out to your local pediatrician, crisis pregnancy center, food pantry, family resource center or WIC office to see if they have any formula available.
     
  • Check with smaller stores for formula supply; often people are turning to the larger chains (such as Target or Walmart) first, but the smaller store might still have them in stock when the bigger stores run out.
     
  • Switch to another available brand, unless your baby is on a specific hydrolyzed/amino acid-based formula. You can read the labels to compare brands. For example, the Enfamil Infant and Similac Advance formulas are virtually the same formula composition. If you are unsure, check with your pediatrician or local WIC Nutritionist.

NOT recommended:

  • Diluting formula with extra water to "stretch it out" is NOT recommended. This electrolyte imbalance can thin out blood and could potentially cause an electrolyte imbalance, seizures or even cause kidney damage to young infants.
     
  • Making homemade formulas is NOT recommended. It is very difficult to sterilize a formula in your own home. Additionally, it is extremely difficult to get the nutrient composition correct. For example, too much protein could harm your little one's kidneys. Too little protein, on the other hand, could affect your child’s growth. Malnutrition in infants is a very serious concern with homemade formulas and the true composition of infant formula is very precise. As a reminder, despite how things may seem at this moment in time, formula is HIGHLY regulated by the FDA. 

If there is no other alternative:

  • Toddler formulas are not recommended. HOWEVER, if a baby is over 6 months, has started on some food introductions and the parent has absolutely NO other choice, toddler formula MAY be used for up to 2 days. Again, this is specific to extreme, desperate circumstances, and parents should check with their pediatrician if considering this.

  • If an infant is over 6 months, is on a regular cows-milk-based formula, has started on some iron-rich foods and NO other alternatives are available, cow's milk may be offered. This is a last resort option and should be discouraged for most parents except under very extreme circumstances. This option may cause iron-deficiency anemia and GI-issues with some infants and is NOT nutritionally adequate for infants under one year of age. If your family feels that this is their only option, please consult your pediatrician or WIC nutritionist.  

Learn More From The CDC
Learn More From The American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Children

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Author(s)

Kate Graves
Asst Extension Program Mgr
Phone: (603) 641-6060
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension Youth and Family, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824

Joy Gagnon
Nutrition Connections Teacher
Extension Teacher
Phone: (603) 447-3834
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824

Laura Alimayu
Healthy Living Field Specialist
Asst Field Specialist
Phone: (978) 606-8404
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824