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What to know if you’re affected by the infant formula shortage



Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/12/22

Infant formula is in very short supply, and parents who rely on it to feed their tiny babies are feeling desperate.

Since early 2020, it seems like a new shortage pops up every few weeks. There was the toilet paper shortage, the building supplies shortage, the housing shortage. 

But there’s something kind of nightmarish about the newest shortage: Infant formula. It is suddenly in very short supply. And parents who rely on it to feed their tiny babies are feeling desperate in this crisis.

How did we get here?

Formula was already in lower than usual supply when a scary incident with infected formula made matters a lot worse:

The problem, rooted in the tight supply chain, is exacerbated by a production halt at an Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan. Abbott is seeking to restart the plant after it recalled three popular brands of powdered infant formula in February following reports four infants who ate formula manufactured at the facility got sick with rare infections caused by Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria and died.

So if you’re looking for formula and facing empty store shelves, what are your options? Here’s what you need to know. (Please note, this is not medical advice.)

Reach out to your pediatrician

Whatever you decide to do, check with your baby’s doctor first. They may have suggestions of where to get cans of formula.

They can also advise you on switching brands of formula, alternatives to store-bought formula, and other questions you may have.

Check alternative sources

Smaller stores and drug stores might have infant formula available when larger stores have run out. You might want to buy formula online instead of in-store for now (although watch out for scams). You also might be able to get suggestions of where to look from your local WIC office. 

Consider using donated breast milk

I spoke to a pediatrician friend and this was her first suggestion: “I would recommend that families try to source donated breast milk.” 

Many moms who pump have extra milk and may be able to share. I’ve donated breast milk, and speaking for myself, I was more than happy to share a few bags of milk with a friend who needed it. 

If you’d like to use donated breast milk, I would suggest turning to social media groups, milk banks, or local mom friends who breastfeed. Ask around, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that someone near your home has a chest freezer full of breast milk and is happy to share it.

Switch formula brands

Unless your baby has an allergy or some other special issue, it’s safe to switch to another brand. If your favorite brand is running low, this might be the time to switch to whatever formula is available.

Ask on social media

There are a lot of social media groups dedicated to helping parents find baby formula, so be sure to check out what’s in your area. You might be surprised by how many people really want to help you and your baby.

Don’t water down formula

Watering down formula can cause nutritional imbalances and lead to serious health problems. As tempting as it may be to stretch out the last can of formula with extra water, be sure to always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.

Stash some recipes in your back pocket

The official AAP recommendation is not to use homemade formula. That said, there are recipes available that may be useful to know about. Again, be sure to consult with your health professionals.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced it is taking steps to improve the supply of infant formula, so here’s hoping for the best. Until then, we are praying for all affected families and will be connecting with local families to help them find the formula they need.

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