Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been significant shortages of infant formulas in some stores, largely caused by supply chain issues, as well as a recent recall of several contaminated baby formula products.
While this unfortunate crisis continues to impact thousands of caregivers needing to feed their babies, Mayo Clinic continues to offer advice on safe alternatives in the short term to patients.
Alternative formula options
For most infants, it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless the infant is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula, such as Elecare—no generic brands currently exist for this formula. If the infant needs specialized formula, the caregiver should contact the infant’s provider.
If caregivers cannot find infant formula near them, temporary alternatives include:
- If the caregiver can afford it, they can purchase formula online until store shortages ease. See the approved list of infant formula manufacturers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is recommended to purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites.
- Checking reputable social media groups, such as ‘Formula Finder’ on Facebook, as these groups are dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula, including donor breast milk. Use caution and be careful about sharing personal or financial information.
- Using informal community milk-sharing from someone they know and trust. This is different from donor breast milk, in that the milk is not regulated or pasteurized.
- Using whole cow’s milk for infants 6 months and older for a limited time only—approximately one to two weeks.
- Using formula past the ‘use by’ date as a short-term solution only, approximately one to two weeks maximum. This option is better than not having any other alternative options available in the short term. If the formula is over six months past its ‘use by’ date, it should not be used because it may have lost some of its nutrients. Caregivers are asked to contact their infant’s health care team to discuss this as an option.
Caregivers and infants who are being discharged from Mayo Clinic following birth will be provided with resources and options for alternative infant formula.
Help is on its way
There are several federal government actions currently taking place to help with the baby formula shortage in the U.S. including:
- Easing import rules for foreign baby formula manufacturers.
- Airlifting European formula to the U.S.
- Invoking federal emergency authorization to prioritize U.S. production.
- Abbott Nutrition has restarted production at the Michigan baby formula location that has been closed since February due to contamination, focusing on specialty formula first—which is expected to be released by June 20—as well as restarting Similac production thereafter—the company indicates it will likely take six to eight weeks before they will be at full production capacity.
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