Bearing all of that in mind, we’ve rounded up several ideas about what to do if you run out of baby formula—and a few options that should be avoided.
Talk to your pediatrician first.
If you run out of the formula you usually give your baby, your first call should be to your child’s pediatrician, Andrea L. Deierlein, an associate professor of public health nutrition at the NYU School of Global Public Health, tells SELF. Depending on a number of factors—your infant’s age, weight, and other developmental details—your pediatrician can help you determine what to do next.
Consider switching formulas, if that’s an option for you.
While certain babies might face restrictions that limit their formula choices, for others, the answer their pediatrician gives may be switching to a different but similar formula, Richard So, MD, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, tells SELF. “While there are many different formulas on the market, many of them are very similar to each other with only small changes made by the manufacturer,” he explains. However, keep in mind that even a slightly different recipe could cause changes in certain infants, Dr. Wasser says.
For instance, if you’ve been giving your baby a formula with “bonus” ingredients, such as probiotics that may help support gastrointestinal (GI) health, you may notice GI distress after starting them on a new formula, she explains. However, “their basic nutrition needs to support growth and development will be met,” Dr. Wasser says. Before making any such decisions, though, parents should check with their pediatrician, as we’ve mentioned.
There’s also a chance your baby won’t even notice they’re trying something new, Dr. So adds: “If you stick with the same type of formula but switch the brand, you and your baby aren’t likely to notice a difference.” Your pediatrician can help you find a new formula with a similar ingredient profile, Deierlein says.
Contact your local WIC office.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a good place to start if you need assistance buying baby formula right now, Dr. Wasser says. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a fact sheet on the shortage, which also advised parents to contact their local WIC office for help locating or obtaining baby formula.
Find a local food bank.
In addition to the WIC program, food banks and breast milk banks may be able to help families struggling to locate or afford baby formula their child needs now, per the HHS. It points to four organizations that parents should check in with if they need formula.
The first is Community Action Agency (CAA). The HHS says your local CAA may be able to provide you with formula or connect you to an agency that has it in stock. The second is United Way’s 2-1-1 resource. Per the HHS, dialing 211 will connect you with a United Way agent who can help you locate food pantries and other sources of baby formula. Parents should also try their local Feeding America food bank to see if they have any baby formula, the HHS says.
Reach out to a breast milk bank, if that’s an option for your baby.
Breast milk banks accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) are distributing donated breast milk to mothers in need, per the HHS. That said, the milk banking system in the U.S. is very small, Dr. Wasser says. “Most banked milk is reserved for pre-term infants in the [neonatal intensive care unit] and requires a prescription,” she adds.