HHS Tips For Formula Shortages

The formula shortage has left American parents worried and anxious about feeding their babies. To ease these anxieties, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has released information, tips, and recommendations for families to follow to help ease the formula shortage. Read the full release here.

The information provided reflects input from physicians and other experts at the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the North American Society For Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (NASPGHAN).

  • Try Formula That’s Made in Another Country

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed formula made outside of the United States to market certain products in the United States and may allow more infant formula products that meet its criteria for exercising enforcement discretion.

  • Talk to Your Pediatrician or Other Health Care Provider About Substitutes for Hypoallergenic or Specialty Formula.

Depending on which formula is needed, your health care provider may be able to submit an urgent request for a specialized formula to Abbott Nutrition, which is releasing some specialty and low-iron formulas on a case-by-case basis.

  • Talk to Your Pediatrician or Other Health Care Provider About Short-Term Options

If you can’t find any formula and your baby is older than 6 months, talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider about using whole cow’s milk, soy milk, or toddler drink as a short-term option.

  • Explore Resources for Breast Milk or Breastfeeding

Consider a local milk bank that is accredited through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Keep in mind that most of the milk from milk banks is given to hospitalized babies, and they may not have enough to serve healthy babies at all times. For families who are using both breast milk and formula, consider shifting more of your baby’s diet to breast milk. This could mean you need to increase your breast milk supply. You can do this by breastfeeding your baby more frequently or by adding pumping sessions between breastfeeding. Pumped milk can be kept in a refrigerator and stored frozen for later use. The CDC provides resources for breastfeeding support for mothers who are breastfeeding.

If you are able to find a new brand of formula, most babies will do just fine as long as they’re the same type. Try slowly introducing small amounts of the new formula by mixing it with your regular formula. Slowly increase the amount of the new formula over time. If your baby is vomiting, has gas pains, is crying or can’t be calmed down during feedings, is losing weight, has diarrhea, has blood or mucus in their poop, or is straining to poop, they may not be tolerating the new formula. Call your pediatrician or other health care provider if you have questions.

The HHS also urges parents to avoid unsafe formula practices.

  • Don’t try to make formula at home. There are serious health and safety concerns with homemade formula. Your baby’s nutritional needs are very specific, especially in the first year of life. Homemade formula may contain too little or too much of certain vitamins and minerals, like iron. Homemade formula also increases the risk of contamination, which could make your baby sick or lead to infection.
  • Don’t water down formula. Adding more water can take nutrients away from your baby and lead to serious health problems, like seizures.
  • Don’t use formula past the “best by” or “use by” date. The formula may not be safe and may have lost some of its nutrients.
  • Don’t buy more formula than you need. The shortage is affecting families who are already navigating the stress of parenting during a pandemic. It can be tempting to buy as much formula as possible right now, but the AAP suggests buying no more than a 10-14 day supply to help improve shortages.
  • Get Help From WIC

If you need help buying formula, you’re not alone. About 43 percent of all babies in the U.S. receive help from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC provides formula and food for your family and can connect you to trained professionals who provide health screenings, breastfeeding support, and nutrition advice. You can also participate in WIC while you’re pregnant. Contact your local WIC clinic to see if you or your family is eligible.

The HHS has also released a list of community resources for help getting help finding formula.

Locate your nearest Community Action Agency (CAA):

United Way’s 2-1-1:

Find an accredited milk bank:

Apply for WIC:

Talk to a MyGerber Baby Expert:

Similac (Abbott’s) urgent product request:

Enfamil (Reckitt’s) customer service line: Call 1-800-222-9123

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