May 23, 2022 - News

Baby formula shortage do's and don'ts, per a pediatrician

Empty shelves normally meant to hold baby forumla

Shelves normally meant for baby formula sit nearly empty at a store. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty

Katie Lockwood, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Primary Care, talked to Axios about what families and caregivers should and shouldn't be doing during the nationwide baby formula shortage.


Talk to your pediatrician. Some pediatricians may have baby formula samples they can give to families, Lockwood told Axios.

  • Doctors can potentially work with manufacturers to receive limited supplies of specialized formulas, like those with dietary restrictions.

Check smaller retailers, pharmacies and grocery stores, which might have more formula in stock.

  • You can also potentially work with these retailers to order types that they don't regularly carry, Lockwood said.

Switch brands.

  • For babies without health restrictions, it's safe to swap formulas because they are interchangeable, Lockwood said.

Use social media. Lockwood suggests joining local parent groups online, where many are sharing information about when stores have restocked.

  • "It's been a great way for parents coming together to support each other, and it can be a great resource locally to know what's happening in a way that the larger media outlets may not be aware of," she said.

Don't make your own formula.

  • Homemade formula isn't considered safe and may lack the nutritional requirements for infants, Lockwood said.
  • Avoid using recipes circulating online or even passed down in families.

Don't water down formula.

  • Giving infants watered-down formula can be dangerous, particularly for those under 6 months old, Lockwood said.
  • "Long-term, you're diluting the calories and fat and protein and everything that your baby needs to grow," she said.
  • "In the shorter term though, under the age of 6 months, infants' kidneys are still developing, and so they can't process water the same way that others can. So adding too much water can lead to brain swelling and seizures," Lockwood added.

Don't use European formulas.

  • Families should use formulas approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Lockwood said.

Go deeper: For those in Pennsylvania, contact your local WIC office for information related to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children programs.


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