Resources for Families Impacted by the Infant Formula Shortage

The nationwide infant formula shortage has caused stress for many families. These resources can help families who are trying to find food that supports their baby's nutrition. The information below comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Washington WIC program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What should I do if I can’t find formula for my baby?

Your baby’s doctor, nurse, or clinic is the best source of information on your baby’s nutrition. Please contact them if you have any concerns.

If you participate in WIC:

  • Contact your local WIC clinic for help finding formula. WIC now provides more types of formula to give families more choices.
  • If you can't reach your local clinic, call the state WIC office at 1-800-841-1410 Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Check the Washington WIC webpage for more information on approved infant formulas.

Basic Food (SNAP) benefits can be used to shop for infant formula at a variety of stores, including drugstores. You can use benefits to shop in person or online. To find out if you’re eligible for SNAP, see the Parenthelp123 webpage or call 1-800-322-2588.

All other families can:

  • Check smaller stores and drugstores or buy online from name-brand stores and pharmacies.
  • Contact manufacturers directly:
    • Use Gerber’s MyGerber Baby Expert: reach a certified nutrition or lactation consultant by phone, text, Facebook Messenger, Web chat, or video call. They may help you identify a similar formula that may be more readily available.
    • Call Abbott’s Consumer Hotline: 1-800-986-8540
    • Use Abbott’s urgent product request line: Ask your OBGYN or your baby’s doctor, nurse, or clinic to submit an urgent product request through Abbott.
    • Call Mead Johnson/Reckitt’s Customer Service line: call 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)
  • Check out community resources:
    • Find out your nearest Community Action Agency (CAA). Your neighborhood CAA may be able to give you formula or connect you with local agencies that have formula in stock.
    • Call United Way’s 2-1-1: Dial 2–1-1 to be connected to a community resource specialist at United Way. They may be able to help you find food pantries and other places where you can get low- or no-cost infant formula and baby food.
    • Call your local food bank to ask if they have infant formula in stock.
    • Ask your baby's doctor, nurse, or clinic about donated breast milk. With a prescription, you may be able to get safe donated breast milk from the Northwest Mother’s Milk Bank

In this urgent situation, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s okay for most babies to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby needs a specialty formula. If your baby takes a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as Elecare, ask your baby's doctor, nurse or clinic if they have formula samples on hand that they can provide.

Is it safe to add more water to formula to make it last longer?

No. You should always follow instructions on the packaging and the information your baby’ doctor, nurse, or clinic gives you. Diluted formula is dangerous and can cause your baby to not get enough nutrition. That can cause serious health problems.

Can I make homemade formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against making your own baby formula. Homemade formula is not safe and does not give your baby enough nutrition. Some infant deaths have been linked to homemade formulas.

Can I get imported baby formula?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to increase the supply of imported baby formula. On May 16, the FDA agency said imported products that meet safety and nutrition criteria could arrive in the U.S. in a matter of weeks.

Can I feed toddler formula to my baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend toddler formulas for babies. But AAP says if you have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies close to one year old.

Can I use premature formula for my full-term baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says formulas made for premature babies are safe for full-term babies for a few weeks if nothing else is available.

Can I give my baby cow’s milk instead of infant formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that for babies older than 6 months who take regular (not specialty) formula, whole cow’s milk may be an option for a short period of time (no more than a week). AAP says it’s not ideal and should not be given longer than one week. When giving cow’s milk, it is important to make sure your baby is getting enough iron to prevent anemia. It’s also important to give your baby plenty of iron-containing solid foods, such as jarred baby meats or iron-fortified cereals. If you need to give your baby whole cow’s milk for a week during the shortage, talk with your baby’s doctor, nurse, or clinic.

Can I feed my baby goat’s milk?

Goat's milk is not approved for babies in the United States. However, some countries have approved baby formulas made from goat milk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may consider allowing those products to be imported during this shortage.

Can I give my baby a plant-based milk?
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says plant-based milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under one year old. AAP says in an emergency, you can give soy milk to a baby who is close to one year old for no more than a week, but the soy milk should be fortified with protein and calcium. Be sure to switch back to formula as soon as it’s available again.
  • Do not give your baby almond milk or other plant milks. These often do not have enough protein and minerals for your baby.
  • Talk to your baby’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you’re thinking of using a plant-based milk.
My baby needs a specialty formula that was recalled by Abbott. What should I do?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that it will allow Abbott to release some specialty and metabolic formulas from the company’s factory in Sturgis, Michigan, in certain situations. If your baby needs one of those formulas, ask your baby’s doctor, nurse, or clinic about getting the product.

Is it possible to start breastfeeding if I’ve been feeding my baby formula?

Breastfeeding after a long pause or starting breastfeeding after never having done it is possible, but it does take time and effort. La Leche League International has resources on how to stimulate milk supply.

Resources for retailers

Amid the shortage, some stores have kept baby formula products behind the counter instead of on store shelves to spread limited supply among more families. DOH has produced a poster (PDF) that includes information in multiple languages to help customers ask for formula and direct them to this web page for additional information. 

DOH encourages retailers to print out the poster and display it in the baby formula aisle to help families who speak a language other than English.