How to Safely Switch Baby Formulas if Your Usual Brand is Out of Stock

Baby formula shortages are forcing parents to make swift moves to keep their children fed. If the formula you’ve been using has run out of stock, switching to another brand can be a safe, helpful option.

SheKnows spoke to Dr. Jen Trachtenberg, board certified pediatrician and parenting expert at Carnegie Hill Pediatrics, about what parents need to know before making that switch — and the biggest don’ts when it comes to baby formula.

When deciding on a new formula, what should a parent look out for? Are there any ingredients that should remain consistent?

The most important thing parents should know is that all infant formula manufactured in USA meets federal nutrient requirements, so rest assured whichever formula you use meets the nutritional needs of your growing baby.

However, in general, most formula falls into these categories: cow’s milk based, soy or specialty (hypoallergenic) formula. There’s no problem switching to any formula within each class, no matter which brand or generic is given to your baby.

Should you consult your pediatrician before switching?

In general, when switching formula (other than a specialty formula), it is safe to try various name brands, generics or store brands. It is even okay to change between powder, concentrate or ready-to-feed formula. All will give the vitamins, minerals and nutrients babies need to grow.

Are there possible side effects babies might experience after a formula switch?

It’s possible more spit up or more or less bowel movements may occur on various formulas, though remember the nutrient requirements are the same across all USA formulas. It may take a few feeds for your baby to get used to slight variances in taste.

I often tell parents that brands of cow’s milk formula are similar to Coke and Pepsi — both cola but with subtly different tastes.

What would you recommend for parents who have babies on a specialized formula and need to find a substitute?

If a baby is on a specialized or hydrolyzed amino acid formula, please speak with your pediatrician, who may be able to help get you formula from their office, clinic, or formula representatives.

Are there any big “don’ts” when it comes to switching formulas?

  • Do not dilute any formula to “stretch” it or make it last longer; this can be severely harmful to an infant. Always prepare the formula per the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Don’t make your own homemade formula. There are a lot of online recipes now due to the formula shortage, however, these are not safe and don’t meet the nutritional needs of a baby. There have been infant deaths reported from homemade formula.

How safe is it for parents to order formula from other countries?

I don’t usually recommend buying European brands for a variety of reasons, even without a shortage. Instructions on preparation and scoop sizes may be different than in the United States, there could be issues with temperature control and transportation, recalls from outside USA may not be known, and some European formulas may have different levels of nutrients.

If you must buy from abroad, make sure it’s from a reputable retailer and meets the nutrient requirements of the US Infant Formula Act for an iron-fortified infant formula. Use the exact scoop it comes with, and follow directions from the manufacturer.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

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