There is nothing as important to families as the health and safety of their babies, and the shortage of formula has left many people anxious about how to feed them. Some young children, adolescents, and adults with medical needs also rely on formula for their nutrition. They could also be affected by the deficiency.
We know it’s not easy to change your baby’s diet. However, if you can’t find the formula in stock, here are some tips for finding safe substitutes.
Find safe substitutes
The information provided reflects the input of 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 brand of formula
Most kids will be fine with different brands of formulas, including store brands, as long as they are of the same type, such as cow’s milk, soy, hypoallergenic (extensively hydrolyzed) or elemental (amino acid). Keep in mind that your baby may seem to dislike the taste, or may have a hard time tolerating a different formula, initially. 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 vomiting, has gaseous pains, cries or can’t calm down while feeding, is losing weight, has diarrhea, has blood or mucus in their stools, or strains to poop, they may not tolerate the new formula. Call your pediatrician or other health care professional if you have any questions.
If you need help figuring out which formulas you might be able to substitute:
- Your pediatrician or other healthcare professional is always the best resource because they know your baby and his or her 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 performed under the recommendation and supervision of your pediatrician or other health care practitioner.
Try the formula made in another country
You can also consider purchasing a formula made outside of the United States in US stores. Stores will start carrying these options soon. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed these formula companies to market certain products in the United States and may allow more infant formula products that meet its criteria to exercise application discretion. When preparing a formula produced in other countries:
- Read carefully the mixing instructions for preparing powder formulas. They may require different amounts of powder or water than formulas made in the United States
- Use the FDA conversion chart to convert milliliters to fluid ounces and common conversions from Celsius (° C) to Fahrenheit (° F).
Consumers should be vigilant when purchasing a formula made outside the United States online markets, as it may be counterfeit. Learn more about how to spot counterfeit infant formulas: What are counterfeit infant formulas? How can I avoid buying such products?
Talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider about substitutes for hypoallergenic or special formulas.
If you need a hypoallergenic or medical formula, it may be more difficult to find a replacement. Talk to your pediatrician or other health care professional about acceptable substitutes. Depending on what formula they need, they may be able to submit an urgent request for a specialized formula to Abbott Nutrition, which is releasing some special, low-iron formulas on a case-by-case basis.
Feed your baby safely
If you can’t find a sufficient formula, there may be some short-term options that can help you in an urgent situation. You should also be aware of serious safety concerns related to certain alternative preparations 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.