A nationwide shortage of baby formula has left parents scrambling to find solutions to feed their infants. While the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against trying to make homemade formula or watering it down to stretch it longer, as it could have dangerous consequences for your baby, there are safer alternatives for some parents if you can’t find any formula in stock.
For babies older than 6 months, the AAP says you might be able to swap in cow’s milk “for a brief period of time until the shortage is better.” This should only be considered for those 6 months old and older, and only for babies who are used to drinking regular formula – not a specialized formula – the AAP says.
“This is not ideal and should not become routine, but is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula,” the Academy says.
Parents who need to use cow’s milk in a pinch should purchase whole milk and should limit the total amount to no more than 24 ounces per day, according to the AAP.
What about plant-based alternatives like oat, almond or soy milk? The AAP doesn’t recommend any such alternatives for infants under a year old or any infants who usually require specialized formula.
Almond and other plant-based milks are too low in protein and minerals to be a viable swap in all cases. However, soy milk could be an option in some instances.
“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. Make sure to change back to formula as soon as some is available,” writes the Academy.
Additionally, the AAP says toddler formula could be a last-resort option for some babies in need. “Toddler formulas are not recommended for infants. However, if you absolutely have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies who are close to a year of age,” says the AAP.
The organization suggests talking to your pediatrician if you’re having trouble finding formula and before making any swaps.
There was a glimmer of hope Monday the formula shortage could ease soon. Formula maker Abbott announced it had reached a deal to restart production at one of its facilities, though it will be at least a month before it starts to ship out new batches.
The Food and Drug Administration was also expected to start allowing more formula to be imported from other countries.