Mighty Blog

The baby formula shortage: what you need to know

Many families are struggling to find baby formula amid the nationwide shortage. The current shortage has been caused largely by supply chain issues and the recent voluntary recall by Abbott of certain baby formula products over concerns about contamination. On May 16, 2022, Abbott reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reopen its plant in Michigan that was shut down due to bacterial contamination. However, Abbott said it would take 6-8 weeks for formula to arrive in stores. Children’s Minnesota is actively monitoring the situation and doing what we can to help families impacted by the shortage.

Advice for families

We understand the baby formula shortage can be an overwhelming and stressful time. The following advice is strictly for URGENT situations. If you have any concerns about your baby’s nutrition, please talk with your pediatrician.

What if baby formula is out of stock everywhere?

  • To help ease the impact of shortages, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises buying no more than a 10-day to two-week supply of formula.
  • AAP recommends breastfeeding infants as breast milk contains the optimal nutrients and health protection for babies. However, breastfeeding may not always be possible for a host of reasons.
  • Talk with your pediatrician and ask if they are able to get you a can from the local formula representatives or one of the charities that has some. Your local WIC (women, infants and children) office may also be able to help.
  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are.
  • If you can afford it, buy formula online until store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites.
  • For most babies, it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specialty product that is unavailable in a store brand, such as extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula (no store brand exists). If you are unsure, talk with your pediatrician.
  • Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.
  • If no formula can be found, consider borrowing a can from a friend.

Is it OK to put more water in baby formula?

No. Never put more water in your baby formula. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous. It can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.

Can you make your own baby formula?

The AAP strongly advises against homemade formula. Although recipes for homemade formulas circulating on the internet may seem healthy or less expensive, they are not safe and do not meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Infant deaths have been reported from use of some homemade formulas.

Can I give my baby alternative milk products if I can’t find formula?

Milk alternatives are not recommended for infants under 1 year of age. Be especially careful to avoid almond or other plant milks as these are often low in protein and minerals. Unpasteurized milk sources can also lead to potentially life threatening illness and do not provide all of the nutrients infants need.

Can I give my baby toddler formula?

Toddler formulas are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies close to 1 year of age. Note that mixing instructions for toddler formula may be different and mixing per the instructions on the can may not yield the concentration of formula your infant typically receives. Consult with a pediatrician or dietitian about mixing instructions.

What is the shelf life of baby formula?

Check the “use by” date on infant formula, which is required by FDA regulations to be on each container. Until that declared date, the formula will contain no less than the amount of each nutrient on the product label and will otherwise be of acceptable quality.

Remember: Always talk with your pediatrician about any concerns you have about feeding your baby.

Alexandra Rothstein