TL;DR: Call your baby’s primary are clinician to get advice right away. In general, unless the baby is on a specialty formula, most ingredients are similar between formulas and switching brands is ok. Do not add extra water to stretch formulas or make your own at home. There are potential serious risks to the baby.
Many people are struggling to find infant formula right now because of the formula shortage. If you are stuck and unable to find your usual formula, here are a few do’s and don’ts that may help:
First step, call your baby’s primary care clinician for advice. Every baby is different, and their PCP can help you make sure that their nutritional needs are met.
Smaller stores and online retailers may be less likely to be out of stock than bigger stores. Try looking around, but make sure that it is a reputable distributor. There are local social media groups helping people as well.
There are a number of resources to help you find formula if you are a struggling. You can find some of them here.
In the US, you can call 211 to help connect you to community resources, including resources for the formula shortage.
If your baby is on a regular formula, it is usually safe to switch to another brand of regular formula. Most have very similar ingredients. If you have any leftover from your typical brand, you can try introducing small amounts of the new formula mixed in with your usual formula and gradually increase how much of the new formula you are giving. This may help you baby get used to a different taste.
If your baby has a specialty formula, the baby’s PCP can help identify which brands might be ok to switch to or they may be able to help get the right specialty formula through assistance programs.
Formulas that are intended for premature babies can be used safely for kiddos that were born full term if you can’t find anything else.
Milk banks are places where people can access donated breast milk. They are typically reserved for infants with special medical needs. If you are considering using a milk bank, talk to your baby’s PCP. You can find local milks banks here.
DO NOT add extra water to the formula. If a baby gets too much water, they can develop low sodium (called hyponatremia) which is extremely dangerous for little ones.
Homemade formula is not recommended. Babies have very specific requirements for nutrition and how much water they get. It is also possible to contaminate homemade formulas and accidently expose babies to harmful chemicals and bacteria. Homemade formulas can cause problems that are potentially life-threatening.
Cow’s milk and soy milk should be avoided for children under the age of 1 year. They do not contain the right amount of nutrients for infants. If you absolutely need to, they can be used as a last resort for children older than 6 months and for no longer than 1 week. If you find yourself in this bind, let your baby’s PCP know right away.
Don’t use expired formulas.
Just telling people to breastfeed isn’t helpful. Many people cannot breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed for any number of reasons (all of which are valid and no one else’s business).
Help is on the way. The US Food and Drug Administration has announced emergency measures to get more formula, including easing restrictions to allow for importing formulas that meet US safety standards.
Stay safe. Stay well.
Those Nerdy Girls