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With the Baby Formula Shortage, What Should I Do If I Can't Find Any?

Hospital news | Friday, May 20, 2022

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been significant shortages of infant formulas in stores. Current shortages have been largely caused by supply chain issues and the recent recall of several baby formula products over concerns about contamination.

Here are some tips on finding formula your baby needs during the shortage, and what you may safely consider if you absolutely can't find any.

What if baby formula is out of stock everywhere I look?

Parents having trouble finding baby formula should call:

  • Your baby’s pediatrician or healthcare provider if you cannot find formula you need for your baby. They may have samples in stock, connections to other local organizations or ideas of other places to call.
  • The IDHS Helpline for assistance locating formula (1-800-843-6154)
  • The local WIC office for guidance (WIC Store locations can be found at:

    • For WIC clients who are able to travel to purchase formula, the WIC stores in the Chicago area have Enfamil contract formula in stock. WIC clients can go to any one of these stores with their EBT card to redeem their benefits. WIC stores may not have specialty formulas that require a prescription. Call ahead to inquire about availability of those.

  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are. Stores in our area are limiting the number of cans per customer and per purchase. We encourage parents to call around to stores to see what they have in stock before driving all over. Some stores may have formula at the service desk instead of on the shelves.

  • If you can afford it, buy formula online until store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors, grocers, and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites.

  • Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice with your baby’s healthcare provider.

  • If you find it in stock, it can be tempting to buy as much formula as possible right now, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises buying no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula to ease shortages.

I found small amounts of several different baby formulas. What is the best way to switch among the brands?

  • It is likely that your baby will do just fine with different formulas as long as they are the same type. If your baby does not like the taste or has a hard time tolerating a different formula, you may want to try gradually introducing small amounts of the new formula mixed with the usual formula. Slowly increase the amount of the new formula.

  • Be patient, it may take some time for your baby to get used to a new formula. If you have questions about whether your baby is tolerating the new formula, call your pediatrician.

My infant needs a specialty metabolic baby formula, but I can't find any. What should I do?

  • Talk to your baby’s healthcare provider about safe, comparable specialty formulas for your baby.

Only one brand of baby formula is covered under the WIC program, but I can't find any. What should I do?

  • Reach out to your local WIC office for further guidance.

  • Contact your baby’s healthcare provider.

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 baby’s healthcare provider.

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.

  • Homemade baby formula is not recommended. Although homemade formula was used in the past, it also came with many risks to infants.

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 milk bank that is accredited through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Please remember:

Mead Johnson (manufacturer of Enfamil) has increased production so formula supplies are increasing. It could take weeks for this to start reaching store shelves.

Buying, or hoarding, formula while still pregnant or more than needed keeps it from babies who are hungry today.

Sources: With the baby formula shortage, what should I do if I can't find any? - and the Whiteside County Health Department.