What To Do If You Run Out of Formula

The current formula shortage has been a major stress point for families everywhere as so many little ones rely on formula to receive vital nutrition. If this is you, we want to provide support and resources to get you through. Help is on the way, but in the meantime, here are a few things to consider:

Keep in mind, this advice is intended to support parents during this current URGENT formula shortage. These are not meant to be long term solutions. As always, it’s important to consult your pediatrician before implementing any of these options. 

A few important notes first:

  1. Be aware of tampered formula! Buying second hand or from Facebook groups is an option if families have extra, HOWEVER it’s so important to pay attention to any signs of tampering and to check the expirations dates. According to the Infant Nutrition Council of America: “Purchasing infant formula from individuals, such as at flea markets, on e-commerce websites, or on internet auction sites, is not recommended. These products may have been improperly stored or shipped, which can negatively affect the quality of the formula.”
  2. Do NOT home make your formula or dilute your current formula! Adding extra water to formula can dilute the levels of protein and minerals, and lead to low sodium levels in the blood and other electrolyte disorders that may require hospitalization. Homemade baby formula is not recommended. According to Healthy Baby, “online recipes for homemade baby formula have significant safety concerns regarding contamination and nutrient concentration. Using homemade baby formula can harm your infant. Some babies have been hospitalized from reported use of homemade formulas.”
  3. Be cautious with cow’s milk. Healthy Baby suggests: “If your child is older than 6 months of age and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product for allergies or other special health needs), this may be an option. In a pinch, you could feed them whole cow’s milk for a brief period of time (no more than a week).” Cow’s milk doesn’t contain enough iron and this can lead to anemia. If you choose to supplement with cow’s milk, make sure to give your baby plenty of iron-rich solid foods as well or iron-fortified cereals.  If you need to give your baby cow’s milk for a week, talk with your pediatrician.
  4. You may have the urge to buy as much formula as possible if you find it in stock, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is advising to buy no more than a 2 week supply of formula to ease shortages. Most in person stores are limited the amount you can purchase as well.
  5. Most states are allowing parents who utilize WIC benefits to buy other brands that aren’t usually covered in that program.
  6. If you use a special formula for specific reasons, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition has created a list of alternative brands that’s helpful here.

Formula Alternatives:

  • Consider checking smaller stores or drug stores, which may not be out of supply like bigger chain locations. You can also look online, but purchase from well-known and reputable sources.
  • Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.
  • Call your pediatrician if you cannot find formula you need for your baby. They may have samples in stock, connections to other local organizations or ideas of other places to call, such as your local WIC clinic.
  • If your breastmilk supply hasn’t run out and you’re mentally and physically able, try giving breastfeeding another go. But don’t compromise your mental health over this one! If you can’t, it’s ok! You can also look into your local milk bank for breastmilk that’s been deemed safe and healthy for infants.
  • If your baby is over 6 months old, you can also increase the amount of baby food and age-appropriate foods they are eating, but you shouldn’t replace formula with food completely. Talk with your pediatrician about when your baby may be ready for solid foods and how to keep a balance nutritious diet.
  • Switching brands is ok! It’s likely that your little one will do fine with different formulas as long as they are the same type.
  • Check with your doctor’s office or hospitals for formula samples to use. Many of them are still stocked.


Are formulas from other countries safe?

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is working to make sure procedures are in place to verify production standards, labeling and shipping of imported baby formula brands that previously have not been sold in the United States. European baby formulas are regulated by the European Food Safety Agency similar to how the FDA regulates U.S. formula, and are highly reliable.

Can toddler “formula” substitute for regular baby formula?

Toddler drinks, often found in the formula isles, are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, these products can be safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age.

What about goat’s milk?

Goat’s milk is not approved for babies in the United States. However, there are goat milk-based baby formulas registered in other countries that may be among those considered for accelerated import approval by the FDA.

Can I use plant-based milk?

Plant-based milk alternatives generally are not recommended for babies under a year of age. Soy milk may be an option to give babies who are close a year old during the shortage, but not for more than one week. If you can’t find formula and have to use soy milk, be sure to buy the kind that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Make sure to chat with your pediatrician!

How long can baby formula be used past a “best by” date?

It’s important to honor the expiration date on your formula. It may no longer be safe or have the required levels of nutrients.

Additional Resources

How You Can Help

Join Bobbie’s Hungry for Change Campaign: Call 1-805-2-LISTEN and leave us a message of what you want to say to Congress. Bobbie will use your collective words to send them a letter ahead of the hearing.

United Way’s 2-1-1: Dial 2-1-1 to connect to a community resource specialist with United Way who possible help identify food pantries and other sources of local infant formula.

Community Action Agency: Located your nearest CAA to provide you with formula or connect you with local agencies that have formula in stock.

Vittoria Allen

Vittoria is a writer based in San Diego. A lover of good food, slow living, and a good novel, she shares her life with her husband and two daughters trying to squeeze out the beauty in every moment.