Learn more about how to cope with baby formula shortages.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many industries have faced supply chain issues and raw materials shortages. Baby formula is one of the latest products to experience such shortages. Many parents are struggling to find formula in stores.

So, what should parents do if they are having trouble finding formula for their baby?

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Consider Switching Formula Brands

Being flexible with formula brands can help navigate a tricky situation if your brand is unavailable.

First, look at generic brands offered by different retailers that contain the same ingredients as your standard name-brand formula. All formulas must meet FDA guidelines, so generic brands are safe to use.

If generic brands are not available or you would rather explore a new brand, do your research on ingredients before making your choice. Ensure that the first five or six ingredients — anything listed before the phrase “and less than 2 percent” — match your standard formula. This is important to make it easier for your baby to transition to a new brand.

Get Creative with Sourcing Formula

If you have found a formula that works for you and your baby and want to stick with the same brand, consider getting more aggressive with your approach.

If you buy from a specific retail chain, try calling to see when they expect to receive a shipment or see if they have it in stock at another location. Call other retailers in the area to check their stock status as well.

If you aren’t having any luck in person, consider shopping online. Whether it’s on your retailer’s website or a larger e-commerce site, the product can be shipped from other states fairly quickly.

Also, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician for guidance, especially if your baby needs a specific type of formula due to an allergy or prematurity.

What to Avoid If You Can’t Find Formula

Do not stockpile formula

According to the Infant Nutrition Council of America, some shortages are due to parents stockpiling formula in certain parts of the country.

While it is tempting to want to do the same, it is important to only purchase what you need. That ensures all parents have access to the right formula for their little ones. Purchase enough for 10 to 14 days of use.

Do not use homemade formulas

Blogs containing guidelines for making homemade formula are popular. But it is important to know the dangers of homemade formula and avoid it.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants need a very specific balance of nutrients. Breastfeeding and formulas that meet FDA guidelines can provide those nutrients. Homemade formulas can be missing key ingredients that a baby needs, such as iron or the right amount of vitamins.

Homemade formulas also can contain too much of some ingredients, such as salt, that your baby’s kidneys or liver cannot process.

A 2020 study of 144 homemade formula recipes from different parenting blogs found that nearly half of the recipes used ingredients or concentrations that could harm babies.

Do not add water to formula to stretch it

Diluting formula by using extra water to make it stretch further should not be done under any circumstances.

FDA guidelines ensure the right concentration of nutrients for your baby. Diluting formula, even by small amounts, can be life-threatening in some cases. It can also have a negative impact on your baby’s growth and health.

Do not use toddler formula and cow’s milk for infants

Using toddler formulas for babies younger than 12 months is not recommended. The mix of nutrients needed for a toddler is different from infants.

Cow’s milk does not have enough proteins and minerals for infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics has allowed the temporary use of whole cow’s milk for healthy babies older than 9 months of age if no formula is available. For this age group, adding cow’s milk to complete the right amount of infant formula might be a temporary solution.

Questions? Our Network of Pediatric Experts Can Help.

For questions on best feeding practices for children, your pediatrician is always a good resource. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh can help you connect with a pediatrician through our UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics network of over 250 pediatric providers.

And when it comes to caring for your newborn, UPMC Children’s also works closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. You can feel confident knowing that your child receives comprehensive, quality care every time.

Learn more about the baby formula shortage and what you should do.









About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.