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Running low on baby formula? Safe substitutions and alternatives

What’s a parent to do when their usual baby formula is in short supply? Changing any aspects of your infant’s diet can be scary, and with good reason—your baby needs a diet rich in certain nutrients to keep growing strong and healthy.

It’s important to be cautious when making any changes to your infant’s diet. Ask your child’s pediatrician for advice on what to do if you start running low on baby formula, especially if your baby is on a specialized or prescription diet.

Here are a few general guidelines to help you keep your baby safe and healthy while substituting or changing their usual formula diet. Keep in mind that your baby may have unique needs or sensitivities, and your pediatrician can help find an option that works best for them.

Formula substitution do’s and don’ts

  • Do switch from normal formula to specialized. If baby is on normal formula and you can’t find it, you can replace it with a specialized formula like sensitive or hypoallergenic.
  • Don’t switch from specialized formula to normal. If you can’t find your specialized formula, you should go directly to your pediatrician instead of trying normal formula and hoping it works okay.
  • Do change brands of formula if needed due to availability.
  • Do combine your usual infant formula with any other infant formula. This does not change the nutrients. 
  • Don’t add extra water to infant formula.   
  • Do temporarily use a toddler formula for babies between 9-12 months old who are starting to take more solid foods (with pediatrician guidance).
  • Don’t make any changes if your baby or older child is on a medically prescribed diet. Contact your pediatrician.
  • Don’t use electrolyte solutions as formula.Pedialyte and comparable store brand electrolyte solutions are NOT a substitute for infant formula. However, these can be utilized for infants if there are no appropriate formulas and there is a concern for dehydration. Never give infants commercial sports or energy drinks, as they are not equivalent to Pedialyte and can be harmful.

Is animal milk safe to use as baby formula?

Before formula, many babies faced bone deficiency, infant mortality and growth deficiency from drinking animal milk. We have since evolved and developed nutrient-rich options in the form of baby formulas. However, temporary substitutions using animal milk can help in emergency situations. Here’s what you need to know about using animal milk.

Babies under the age of 6 months should not use animal milk because it could affect kidney function. For 2-3 days, whole cow’s milk is appropriate for babies older than 6 months who are not on specialized formula, but beyond that timeframe, you should reach out to your pediatrician for supplemental vitamins. Babies will miss out on significant vitamins using animal milk.

Cow milk is recommended over goat milk. Goat milk can cause neurologic changes due to the lack of folate and folic acid, which are provided in cow’s milk. Goat milk should notbe used as a formula substitution.  

Tips for safely using a milk bank

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As an alternative to formula, you can ask your pediatrician about breastmilk prescriptions to use at milk banks. Breastmilk is appropriate for all ages of infants who do not need specialized formula.

To avoid transmitting disease, do not share breastmilk with others. Additionally, each baby may have different dietary needs and may be exposed to allergens from another’s breastmilk. 

Switching from formula to breastmilk may cause minor upset stomach or changes in stool. Blood or mucus are worrisome warning signs and you should call your pediatrician immediately.

Questions about baby formula? Talk to your pediatrician or find one near you today.

Running low on baby formula? Safe substitutions and alternatives