Help is on the way for parents struggling with the critical baby formula shortage across the nation. A shipment of infant formula arrived in the United States from Europe yesterday and a second flight is expected to arrive in the next few days.  These shipments will bring approximately 1.5 million eight-ounce bottles of formula to a Nestle facility in Pennsylvania.

Despite these recent shipments, worried parents continue to investigate alternative feeding options. The team at Boston Baby Nurse and Nanny has put together a Formula FAQ to help answer some common questions and address the recent concern about the shortage.

Here are the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Is it okay to put more water in baby formula?

No. While it may be tempting to water down formula to stretch it out, it is not safe to do that. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous. It can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.

Is it okay to switch your baby’s formula?

For most babies, it is okay to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as Elecare (no store brand exists). Ask your pediatrician about recommended specialty formula alternatives available for your baby.

Can I make my own baby formula during the formula shortage?

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 and do not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

What should I know about imported baby formula?

The FDA is considering accelerated approval of certain imported formulas. Many formulas in Europe, for example, contain adequate nutrients but must enter the US in a way that maintains temperature and other safety issues. That’s why FDA oversight is critical.

Can toddler formula substitute for regular formula?

Pediatricians do not recommend toddler formula for infants. If your baby is close to one year of age and you have no other option, toddler formula can be safe for just a few days.

Can I give my full-term baby premature formula?

Premature formula was made for babies born early who need to catch up on growth. If absolutely necessary you can offer it to your full-term infant for a few weeks.

Is cow’s milk a safe alternative to baby formula?

In a pinch you can give a baby over 6 months of  age cow’s milk if they usually consume regular formula and don’t require a specific baby formula due to allergies. Always check with your pediatrician. However, if during the formula shortage you have no other choice you could offer cow milk briefly. The number one concern is a baby not getting all the right nutrients, especially iron.
The AAP shares with us that, “This is not ideal and should not become routine. However, it is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula. Although we don’t have a specific amount of cow milk that infants 6-12 months should drink in this situation, follow the limits of no more than 24 ounces a day for children over a year of age.”

Can I What about feeding my baby goat’s milk?

“Goat’s milk is not approved for babies in the United States. However, there are goat milk-based baby formulas registered in other countries that may be among those considered for accelerated import approval by the FDA.” says the AAP.

Can I use plant-based milk instead of baby formula if needed?

Doctors do not recommend milk alternatives for babies under a year of age or infants with certain medical conditions requiring a specific or special formula. Soy milk may be an option to give babies who are close to a year of age for a few days in an emergency, but always buy the kind that is fortified with protein and calcium. You should change back to formula as soon as it is available. Coming straight from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Be especially careful to avoid almond milk or other plant milks as these are often low in protein and minerals.”

What is the shelf life of baby formula?

Check the “use by” date on infant formula, which is a regulation the FDA requires to be on each container. Until that declared date, the formula will contain no less than the amount of each nutrient on the product label and will otherwise be of acceptable quality. Once past the “best by” date it is no longer safe for infants and may not have the required nutrients for their age.
We strongly encourage you to reach out to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant if you are having trouble obtaining formula during this horrific baby formula shortage.