Answers by: Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP
I have a 3-month-old infant and can’t find my usual baby formula. What should I do?
This is a very difficult problem. If you can find another similar formula, it’s OK to make the switch. If you use a special formula for allergies or other special health needs, the North American Society For Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition provides a list of comparable formulas.
Can I add extra water to formula and give my baby a multivitamin to make up the nutrients?
This should never be done. Adding extra water to formula can dilute the levels of protein and minerals, and lead to low sodium levels in the blood and other electrolyte disorders that may require hospitalization. Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician.
Can I make my own baby formula? I’ve seen a recipe online using evaporated milk that people say was used safely in the 1940s.
Evaporated milk, also known as unsweetened condensed milk, is a form of concentrated milk. Mixing it with water can cause contamination or an incorrect balance of nutrients. For similar reasons, AAP does not recommend using homemade baby formula. Although homemade formula was used in the past, it also came with many risks to infants. Online recipes for homemade baby formula have significant safety concerns regarding contamination and nutrient concentration. Using homemade baby formula can harm your infant. Some babies have been hospitalized from reported use of homemade formulas.
What is the earliest age I can start giving my baby solid food to stretch my formula supply?
Solid foods should not be used to stretch baby formula supply. Formula contains all of the nutrients young babies need, while solid foods may not. Infants generally are ready to eat solid food when they are about 6 months old, but it depends on their stage of development. Talk with your pediatrician about when your baby may be ready for solid foods.
Is it safe to get breast milk from a friend or online group?
We can’t know for sure whether breast milk from a friend or online group is safe. It is better to check with a local milk bank that is accredited through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. To find an accredited milk bank, check here.
I heard the government will be importing baby formula from other countries. Is that safe?
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is working to make sure procedures are in place to verify production standards, labeling and shipping of imported baby formula brands that previously have not been sold in the United States. European baby formulas are regulated by the European Food Safety Agency similar to how the FDA regulates U.S. formula, and are highly reliable.
Can toddler “formula” substitute for regular baby formula?
Toddler drinks, often found in the formula aisles, are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, these products can be safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age.
Is cow’s milk a safe alternative to baby formula?
If your child is older than 6 months of age and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product for allergies or other special health needs), this may be an option. In a pinch, you could feed them whole cow’s milk for a brief period of time (no more than a week).
How long can baby formula be used past a “best by” date?
Generally, formula should not be used past the “best by” date because it may no longer be safe or have the required levels of nutrients.
This is a stressful and scary time for families. Your pediatrician is a resource who can help advise on the best and safest ways to feed formula-fed formula babies during the shortage.