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Are there shortages of infant formula due to COVID-19?

Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP

Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP


Since the outbreak of COVID-19, significant shortages of infant formulas have occurred in some stores. However, these are mostly due to people over buying or stockpiling formula and not because of a national shortage. It is likely that these shortages will improve over the next few days.

​The AAP recommends that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people should buy no more than 10 days to 2 weeks supply of formula.​​ ​

The following tips are to help families struggling to find infant formula during the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • If your child is younger than 6 months of age, talk to your pediatrician and ask if they can urgently get you a can from the local formula representatives or one of the charities that has some.

  • If your child is older than 6 months of age, you can give a couple of days of whole cow's milk until the shortage is better. This is not ideal and should not be routine practice but is better than diluting formula or making homemade formula (see warnings below).

  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, many are not out of supply, whereas the big stores are.

  • If you can afford it, buy formula online until store shortages ease.

  • For most babies, it is ok to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed one such as Alimentum or Nutramigen. If you are unsure, talk with your pediatrician.

  • If absolutely no formula can be found, consider borrowing a can from a friend.

  • Never water down formula! Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous and can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems.

  • The AAP strongly advises against homemade formula. Although recipes for homemade formulas circulating on the internet may seem healthy or less expensive, they are not safe or meet your baby's nutritional needs.

Can I give my baby alternative milk products if I can't find formula?

Milk alternatives are not recommended for infants under 6 months of age at any time. Soy milk can be given to babies over 6 months of age for a few days, but always buy the kind that is fortified with protein and calcium. Make sure families change back to formula as soon as some is available. Avoid almond or other plant milks as these are often low in protein and minerals

Toddler formulas are not recommended for infants under 6 months of age. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days. For babies older than 6 months, it is ok to use toddler formula for a week or two.

​​Remember, this advice is strictly for the current COVID-19 outbreak. If you have any concerns about your baby’s nutrition, please talk with your pediatrician. ​​

​More Infor​mation:

Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP

Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP

​​​Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician, Director of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute, and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas at Austin. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, he is the chair of the National Committee on Nutrition. Dr. Abrams also served on Dietary Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.​

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The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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