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11 Infant Formula Shortage Tips from an IBCLC

It’s a stressful time for parents as the United States faces an infant formula shortage. Our very own Sheila Janakos, MPH, IBCLC and CEO of Healthy Horizons advises new parents on how to source and/or find alternative options that are safe and meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

  1. The only foods that are nutrition complete for infants are human milk and FDA approved infant formula (in the USA). 

    This fact sheet:
     Helping Families Find Formula During the Infant Formula Shortage from the US Department of Health & Human Services is a robust resource.

  2. If you can’t find your formula brand, it is typically safe to switch to another FDA approved formula brand. Talk to your doctor first.

  3. Talk to your doctor and see if they have access or any formula samples to give you. 

  4. Do not water down the formula in an effort to try to make it go further as it can be very dangerous for a baby.

  5. Never use recalled or expired formula.

  6. Talk to your physician about alternatives to formula:

    Don’t use homemade recipes: They may be unsafe and may not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

    Don’t use condensed milk: They may be unsafe and will not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

    Imported from overseas formulas or formulas bought from auctions: Never use non-FDA approved formulas. We don’t know how it was stored, shipped, or how it was handled. Nutrients are unknown and possible bacterial contaminants and other harmful ingredients could be present.

    Temporary infant toddler formulas: It’s not recommended, but if there’s no other alternative and your pediatrician approves, it’s safe for a very short time. It doesn’t provide the nutritional profile an infant needs for growth.

    If the baby is OVER 6 months AND your pediatrician approves: You may be able to give them whole milk, goat’s milk, or plant based milk for a very short amount of time.

    If your baby is OVER a year old: they may have whole milk, goat’s milk, or plant based milk on a limited basis.

  7. The Free Formula Exchange is a nationwide mutual aid network connecting families who need baby formula to people who have formula to donate. This online tool is free to use.

  8. See if friends and family members can source formula for you where they live and send it to you.

  9. Your local food bank and local Women Infant Children (WIC) programs may have resources. Call them to see whether they have infant formula on hand.
    connects families to food banks in their area.

  10. If you’re going to ask a chest/breastfeeding friend if they might have extra pumped milk or if they are willing to pump for you and share (offer to pay if needed), make sure it’s pasteurized before feeding your baby the donor milk.

    National Library of Medicine:
    Innovative Techniques of Processing Human Milk to Preserve Key Components

  11. At milk banks, donors are medically screened, tested, and their milk is then pasteurized. Usually it’s reserved for very young and/or sick babies, but you may contact them for any potential resources.

    Human Milk Banking Association

Many people don’t know that it may be possible to increase your milk supply or bring your milk supply back in.

This is called relactating. It involves frequent breast stimulation with a hospital grade pump and possibly bringing your baby back to the chest/breast.

Professional hospital grade pumps can be rented here. Seek guidance from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to help with a plan.

Need time and a safe place to pump at work? Become familiar with the workplace breastfeeding laws in your state. Even if your state doesn’t have specific workplace breastfeeding laws, don’t worry, you are still protected. Check out our resource for comparing state and federal laws.

Does your workplace have a designated safe and comfortable place to pump? Healthy Horizons provides world class corporate lactation rooms for Fortune 100 companies and many other workplaces across North America. Contact us for an expert lactation room assessment, mothers room design and installation, lactation equipment, furnishings and services. 

Remember: Human milk or infant formula provides a nutritional foundation for the baby’s growing brain. It’s an important building block for the baby’s first year. The baby’s brain grows for three years! Feeding the baby the proper nutrition during this time is critical.

If you have more questions, please visit the lactation consultations portion of our website on Our Breastfeeding Consultations take place under the care of trained healthcare professionals who are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLC®). Professionals specializing in the clinical management of breastfeeding, our lactation consultants are experts in the fields of human lactation and breastfeeding counseling.