Tools to help find formula and comparisons between baby formulas for potential swaps
Helpful Guide: A Resource for Parents to Navigate the Baby Formula Shortage
We'll cover some helpful questions like:
- Where to find formula?
- Can I replace my baby's regular formula with another infant formula?
- Different kinds of formula and how to swap between formula brands
- The do's and don'ts of formula replacements
If you’re here, we’re guessing we don’t need to fill you in on the ongoing infant formula shortage.
While the FDA is urgently working to ramp up production, for many, the situation is becoming dire. As a new parent, there is nothing more distressing and scary than not having access to the food your baby needs.
Below are answers to your most pressing questions about the shortage — and how to try to overcome it:
Where To Find Formula:
If formula is unavailable in larger stores and supermarkets near you, drug stores or smaller local markets may have more availability. Check major, established online retailers regularly for restocking.
If you are coming up short, experts recommend getting in touch with your pediatrician — some offices may have formula on hand they can provide. You can also contact local hospitals, La Leche League, or lactation consultants for assistance; in some areas, local food banks may have small amounts of formula available. If these options fail, your local WIC office may be able to help, and some parents are even gathering on social media to share resources on availability.
Lastly, in some areas, breast milk donation centers may be able to help as well. Check the Human Milk Banking Association of North America for sites, or try googling “breast milk banks” plus your location.
Your Questions Answered:
- Can I replace my baby’s regular formula with another infant formula?
Yes, definitely — in fact, because infant formula is so carefully regulated (the FDA requires that formulas carry precise amounts and ratios of macronutrients and micronutrients), you need not stick with whatever brand/variety you’ve been using. Indeed, doctors are advising that parents be flexible in this regard. Some babies may take a few days to adjust to a new formula, but there are no health risks with swapping brands — including generics. *If your baby has prescription formula, food allergies, or other specific nutritional demands, this may not be the case — speak with your pediatrician to learn more.
(Note: The FDA advises against buying international formula because it has not been vetted for safety.)
Doctors and researchers explain that since infant formula is so highly regulated, there is no “superior brand” — your baby may prefer one brand or style of formula over another, but for the vast majority of babies (who do not require specialized formulas for medical reasons), any kind will work. As pediatrician Dr. Peggy Chapman said, “There are many variations of infant formulas for colic, gas, neurological development and so forth, [but] in the larger scheme, these are minor differences so try not to get lost in the weeds and focus on feeding your baby.”
If you’re forced to make changes to your baby’s formula due to the ongoing shortage, you may have better luck if you can stick with the same type (i.e. cow's-milk-derived, soy-based, sensitive, hypoallergenic, etc.). And *YES, generic and store brand infant formulas are also a great, safe option — if you can find Kirkland (Costco), Up & Up (Target), and the like, scoop some up.
Here are some different choices to help you swap baby formula brands across categories (excluding what’s currently on recall):
Cow’s milk formulas:
Earth’s Best Organic Dairy
Gerber Good Start Gentle
Happy Baby Organic
Burt’s Bees Organic Formula
Gerber Good Start SoothePro
Burt’s Bees Organic Sensitive
Happy Baby Sensitive
Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity
Hypoallergenic infant formulas:
Gerber Goodstart Extensive HA
Parent’s Choice Hypoallergenic
Soy-based infant formulas:
Gerber Goodstart Gentle Soy
Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity
- How can I switch infant formula?
If you don’t have any of your regular formula on hand, it’s perfectly safe to switch brands “cold turkey.” If you do have some of your normal formula remaining, you may choose to ease the transition to a new formula gradually over the course of 1-3 days: start with a 3:1 ratio (3 parts “old” formula and 1 part “new” formula) then move to 1:1, then 1:3 before offering the new formula alone. [end BQ]
- Can I simply replace formula with cow’s milk?
Pediatricians don’t advise offering cow’s milk until a baby’s first birthday (if you’re interested in why, we explain that recommendation here), but given the severity of the crisis at hand, they are allowing some room for flexibility. If your baby is closer to one year old, you may be able to offer some cow’s milk. It’s not ideal, says Dr. Steven Abrams, chair of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition and professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas at Austin, but for babies more than six months old, cow’s milk may be a temporary stopgap. If you do feel you need to offer cow’s milk for a short-term period, it’s best to speak with your pediatrician (and consider asking about an iron supplement) first, and get back to formula as quickly as you are able.
- Can I replace formula with plant-based milk such as almond or soy?
Much like with cow’s milk, plant-based milks and milk alternatives are not recommended until a baby’s first birthday (see why here), but Dr. Abrams explains that fortified soy milk may be an acceptable temporary alternative for babies who are close to one year old and don’t have access to formula. Also as with cow’s milk, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician first and resume formula feeding as soon as you can. (Note: it’s best to avoid almond milk and other plant-based milk alternatives because they are generally lacking in protein and minerals.)
- Can I use toddler formula instead of baby formula?
For babies less than six months, no. If your baby is closer to one year old, however, toddler formula may be a possibility. As Dr. Abrams explains, “toddler formulas are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age.”
- Can I water down infant formula?
No. Watering down infant formula is not recommended because it dilutes and alters the nutritional composition of the formula, which can cause deficiencies and serious health problems.
- Can I make my own infant formula?
The FDA and medical professionals (including the AAP) strongly advise against offering homemade infant formulas because they carry an elevated risk for foodborne illness and bacterial contamination, and they also are much more likely to lead to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances that may result in stalled physical or neurological development. According to the AAP, homemade infant formulas “are not safe.” (Commercially available infant formula is strictly regulated, and the FDA does not approve of any homemade infant formula recipes.)
We at Amara are keeping abreast of this distressing situation, and we are with you, friends — although solid foods cannot substitute for formula, they can help growing babies meet their nutritional needs. All of Amara’s organic baby food purees and blends are made with a patented nutrient protection technology (NPT) that locks in foods’ natural tastes, textures, and nutrients, and every one of our recipes was devised in collaboration with a nutrition Ph.D. to make sure every meal delivers just what your baby needs. Check out our full line of organic baby food blends here, and let’s all call on the FDA to increase production as quickly as possible. If you have more advice for parents struggling to find formula, please share your tips in the comments. ❤️