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Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

June 13, 2022, Kirkilas, Gary, DO , Mariah L. Scott, DO ,
FAQ: Baby Formula Shortage

Updated June 13, 2022

FAQ: Baby Formula Shortage

The nationwide baby formula shortage is causing concern for families. We spoke to Phoenix Children’s pediatricians to answer the most common questions they’re receiving around this supply shortage.

Bring any specific questions you have regarding the baby formula shortage to your pediatrician.

1. Why is there a nationwide baby formula shortage?

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been significant shortages of infant formula due to supply chain issues and a recall of contaminated products.

The FDA is working to increase supply and make infant formula more available in the coming months.

2. What should parents do if they can’t find baby formula in stores?

Contact your pediatrician first. Dr. Mariah Scott, a Phoenix Children’s pediatrician, says they may have limited supplies to give to patients who need it. They also may be able to get you a can from the local formula representatives or a charity that has some. Your local WIC office may also have suggestions.

Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when big stores are.

If a family can afford it, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages them to buy formula online until shortages in the stores ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies. The FDA is exercising enforcement discretion when reviewing imported infant formula products. See the FDA's tips for preparing approved imported infant formulas.

Check social media groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, as members may have ideas. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.

Or consider borrowing a can from a friend.

For updated information on formula supply and safety, see USDA's formula guide.

3. Is it safe to make your own formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against homemade formula. Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a Phoenix Children’s pediatrician, says these homemade recipes do not meet the infant’s nutritional needs and can be harmful.

The AAP also strongly advises against watering down baby formula to extend its use. Watering down formula can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer or your pediatrician.

Switching infant formula brands is OK, but toddler formulas are not recommended for infants. They are only safe to use for a few days for babies close to a year of age.

Dr. Scott says using the right formula can be especially critical for babies with allergies or sensitivities, so run any changes by your pediatrician.

4. Are there any safe alternatives?

If your child is older than 6 months, you can feed them whole cow’s milk until the shortage improves. This should not become routine. If you must do this, talk with your pediatrician about an iron supplement or iron-containing solid food as cow’s milk does not meet the baby’s need for iron.

Milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under a year of age or infants with certain medical conditions requiring specialized formulas. Be careful to avoid almond and other plant milks as they are often low in protein and minerals.

Soy milk may be used for a few days for a baby close to a year of age in an emergency, but always buy the kind that is fortified with protein and calcium. Change back to formula as soon as some is available.

5. What is the shelf life of baby formula?

Refer to the “use by” date on the formula container. The formula is of acceptable quality until that declared date.

For resources to find formula, visit The Department of Health and Human Services formula guide.  

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