Formula shortages

Date: May 13, 2022

Formula shortages are becoming widespread.  I expect that the situation is temporary, but babies need to be fed in the meantime!  I'm not worried that our babies will go unfed.  Here's my advice:

-  If your usual formula isn't available, any standard commercial infant formula that you can obtain is ok.  It's ok to switch brands, or use generic formulas.  Soy-based formulas are also fine.  There's no need to slowly wean from one formula to another; just try the new formula, and see how the baby does.  Most babies will have no adverse reaction to the change, but if possible it's best to try new formulas in the morning, so you can observe.  I don't usually find that the brand or type of formula makes a big difference for babies; most do just fine with any formula.

-  Under 9 months of age, I don't recommend cow milk for long periods.  (The amino acid balance isn't optimal, and there's also a risk of mild iron deficiency anemia.)  Between 9 and 12 months of age, you may try a "toddler formula", or cow milk (whole milk).  I don't recommend alternative milks (soy, nut, oat etc.).  But if you're really in a jam and cannot obtain formula, then whole milk is ok for a few days, at any age, if the baby tolerates it and you cannot obtain commercial formula.

-  An old-fashioned recipe using canned evaporated milk may be used as a last resort.  (Evaporated milk is unsweetened.  Do NOT use sweetened "condensed" milk!)  You may combine one 13 oz can of evaporated milk; 18 oz of bottled water; and 2 tablespoons of plain sugar.  Then feed you baby just as with regular commercial formula.  If you have it, you can add 1 mL (one dropperful) of "Polyvisol with iron" to the quart of formula, or just give the 1 mL directly to the baby.

-  Use the cow milk or evaporated milk formula ONLY if you are unable to find commercial formula, and only for a few days until you can obtain commercial formula.

The shortage is probably temporary.  The well-known supply change issues related to the pandemic have been exacerbated by the closure of the Similac factory that was involved with possible bacterial contamination of powdered-formula.  I expect that the shortage will resolve within several weeks.


     --  Dr. Epstein