The recent widespread recall of infant formulas and the temporary closure of one of the nation’s largest formula plants by the FDA has left parents scrambling to find alternatives to feed their babies. The pediatricians and clinical dietitians at Valley Children’s Hospital have been navigating the formula shortage since the recall in February. We are saddened by the thought of families struggling to locate formula. In light of these empty formula shelves, here are some practical do’s and don’ts when navigating formula shortages.
- Mix & match: All infant formula sold in the United States must meet FDA standards. This means that whether you are purchasing from larger companies such as Enfamil or Gerber or purchasing store brand options, you will receive the same safe and nutritionally compete product. If your child is taking a standard infant formula, feel free to mix and match brands depending on what is available. If your child has been prescribed a specialty infant formula, consult your primary care physician or registered dietitian before switching.
- Check other stores: Target, Walmart and other large chain stores are common places for shoppers to purchase formula. If your local large chain store has empty formula shelves, we recommend looking at smaller stores such as pharmacies and local grocery stores.
- DO NOT dilute: Diluting formula reduces the nutrients that the formula provides your baby. When a baby does not receive all of their essential nutrients, they are at increased risk for poor growth, anemia and seizures – to name a few consequences. Be sure to follow the mixing instructions on the back of the formula can or the recipes given to you by your primary care physician or registered dietitian.
- Avoid homemade formulas and milk alternatives: Homemade formulas, goat’s milk and plant-based milks do not offer the correct amount of nutrients that your child needs. They may contain excessive amounts of protein, which can damage your baby’s kidneys. However, in a dire situation where you are unable to find any formula, your child is older than 10 months and is not on a specialty formula, pasteurized whole cow’s milk may be used for a short period of time until formula can be purchased. This is not ideal and should not become routine. Talk with your pediatrician before switching, and stay in close contact with your pediatrician to monitor for any concerns.
For women who are expecting, currently breastfeeding, or breastfeeding and supplementing with formula and have questions about their supply or would like further assistance, pediatricians and lactation consultants can provide guidance. If you qualify for WIC, not only do they provide formula if supplementation is needed, but they also have lactation support available.
All infants deserve proper nutrition for their growth and development. No matter how you choose to feed your infant, pediatricians and dieticians are here to support you.
Download our Formula Shortage Guide
Valley Children’s has developed a free downloadable Formula Shortage Guide to help parents during the recent infant formula shortage. It includes information about where to find formula, switching formulas, formula do's and don'ts and more. The information within the guide is advised for healthy babies under the age of 12 months who are taking standard formula. If your child has been prescribed a formula, please consult your registered dietician or primary care provider.
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About the Authors
Sara Rima, RD, is a clinical dietitian at Valley Children's Hospital. Her roles include administering nutrition support for our pediatric oncology and gastroenterology floors as well as providing outpatient nutrition counseling for children with obesity and poor growth. Sara is passionate about helping ensure patients have ideal nutrition to support healthy growth and development.
Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC is a complex care pediatrician at Valley Children’s Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. As the ambassador for Safe Kids Central California, she is a vocal advocate for children’s wellness and regularly appears in news media discussing pediatric healthcare.