Our Experts Answer your Top Questions about the Baby Formula Shortage
We know how important it is to be able to access infant formula. For many families – including those on our team – it’s the sole source of nutrition for their little ones. Our team is here to help provide as much support as possible to help you navigate these stressful times and find options that work best for you and your little one.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Happy Baby Experts and chat with us free and confidentially. Our experts are lactation consultants, registered dietitians, and moms, and are available Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday – Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET). Chat Now! Always consult your baby’s pediatrician before making any changes to their feeding routine.
Here are some frequently asked questions to provide some guidance on what your options may be:
1. Can I switch my baby’s formula if I can’t find it anywhere?
Yes, you can switch to another brand of formula if you are unable to find your baby’s current formula.1 Since the Food and Drug Administration tightly regulates infant formula produced in the United States, most standard formulas have similar calories, ingredients, vitamins, and minerals. This means they are designed to meet the nutritional requirements of infants.2 Look at the ingredients on the old formula and the new formula to see if they are similar, as this may make for an easier transition for your little one.2 Always consult your baby’s pediatrician before making any changes to their formula.
If your baby is premature or has allergies and is on a specialty formula, speak with your infant’s pediatrician about which formulas would be an appropriate alternative. For example, if your baby is intolerant or allergic to cow’s milk protein and you are using a hypoallergenic formula, you will want to stick to a comparable product that also does not contain intact cow’s milk proteins.1
2. How do I switch my baby’s formula?
If you are switching from one formula to another due to the formula shortage, you can switch directly to the new formula without transitioning. If you have enough of the original formula, you may decide a more gradual approach is best for your baby.
Below is a sample guide for a slow transition from one formula to another. Change the amounts depending on how much formula your little one drinks per bottle. Move from one step to the next every 1 to 2 days:
3 oz current formula, 1 oz new formula
2 oz current formula, 2 oz new formula
1 oz current formula, 3 oz new formula
4 oz new formula
Always consult your baby’s pediatrician before making any changes to their feeding routine.
Learn More: Should I Switch Baby Formulas?
3. Should I make my own baby formula?
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against homemade formula.6 While you may be able to find recipes for homemade infant formula, these do not meet your baby’s needs and are not considered safe. In fact, homemade formulas have been linked with infant deaths.1 Always consult your baby’s pediatrician before making any changes to their feeding routine.
If you supplement with formula and are looking to increase your breastmilk supply, here are some tips:
Empty the breast more frequently. Milk production is based on supply and demand, so pumping and/or hand expressing to empty the breast more frequently can help boost supply.3With pumping you also want to be as regimented as possible. Pump at the same times each day to help the body know more milk is needed. Know that it may take a few days for your body to respond.
Feed on demand. If baby is nursing at the breast, feeding on demand and offering the breast before the bottle can help increase milk production.4
Try power pumping. This pumping technique mimics cluster feeding, the non-stop feeding your baby does during growth spurts which helps increase your supply. While you may not get much milk during a power pumping session, you are stimulating your body to increase breastmilk production over time.14 Every person is different; you may see results as quickly as in a few days or it could take much longer.
Set aside 1 hour each day to power pump
Pump for 10 to 20 minutes, then pause for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, and repeat this 10-minutes-on and 10-minutes-off for the hour
Use a double electric pump for best results
If possible, be consistent by power pumping at the same time each day
Eat and drink well. Eating and drinking enough can help to optimize milk production.5 Try drinking a glass of water each time you breastfeed and/or pump. You can also meet your hydration needs by consuming high-water-content foods such as fruits, vegetables, and soup. Additionally, choose a wide variety of nutritious foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and beans.
4. Is it possible to breastfeed again if I stopped or if I never breastfed?
Relactating (re-initiating breastfeeding after stopping) or induced lactation (lactating without or long after giving birth after never having initiated the process before) are options that parents may consider during this time.
While it can take some work as well as time, even some breast milk production may help ease worries about formula shortages. You can either provide breast milk through pumping and/or direct nursing.
Please note: Relactation and inducing lactation could take as short as a few days, or can take weeks to month to achieve, and some women may not be successful.13 It’s important that during this process you work with your health care provider and a lactation consultant, as well as support your baby with formula to ensure they are getting enough nutrition to thrive until you begin to produce breast milk.
Our experts are available to answer questions about relactation, and there are helpful resources about relactation and induced lactation online, including at the CDC and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.
5. What should I know about using donor breastmilk?
Donor milk banks
If relactation is not feasible or possible for you, you may be wondering about the option of using donor human milk. The Human Milk Banking Association of North American has a list of all non-profit milk banks throughout North America (US and Canada).7 There are also for-profit milk banks that sell almost exclusively to hospitals.8
Some milk banks only provide milk exclusively to hospitals, while others will provide human milk directly to families for a cost (which may or may not be covered by insurance). Most milk banks that provide milk for babies at home require a doctor’s prescription upon ordering, but some will allow you to order up to 40 ounces of milk before needing a prescription.7
Milk banks take the milk from carefully screened and unpaid donors and then combine and pasteurize the milk. Availability depends on the amount that is donated. Insurance plans, including public insurance plans, will often cover donor milk if your baby is in the hospital, but it’s important to confirm what is covered outside of the hospital setting by contacting your insurance for more information. Some milk banks also have financial assistance available for eligible families.7
Informal milk sharing
Informal milk sharing also exists.9 Safety is the main concern with informal sharing, especially regarding contamination, as it is possible that informal sharing operations do not take into account safe handling or pasteurization.11 This is a concern even with large milk sharing groups such as Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies, although some of these organizations do take some safety precautions.10
Always speak with your baby’s pediatrician before feeding your baby any donor milk.
Safe preparation and handling of donor milk
If you have a full-term and healthy baby, the protocols for handling donor human milk are the same as handling milk that you have expressed yourself. The most important point is to not re-freeze thawed milk and to never thaw or warm milk in the microwave.12
Read more: Safe Storage of Pumped Breastmilk
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET).Chat Now!