With the nationwide shortage of baby formula, some readers have had questions about what formulas are safe for their babies. Here are some answers and resources. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates commercial infant formulas to make sure they meet minimum nutritional and safety requirements. Approximately 80% of the formula sold in the US is based on cow’s milk. However, during the formula preparation process, the protein in the milk is altered to make it more digestible for babies. Lactose is added to the formula to make the concentration equal to that found in breast milk. In addition, the butterfat is removed and replaced with other fats that infants can more easily digest. Iron is added to many formulas to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anemia in infants. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are also added to many formulas. These fatty acids are believed to be important for the development of a baby’s brain and eyes. Hydrolyzed formulas, also called predigested formulas, are a type of formula that has been processed to break down the protein content even more, and make the formula more digestible.

While most formulas are based on cow’s milk, feeding an infant regular cow’s milk is not recommended. After 1 year of age a baby may be able to tolerate and digest cow’s milk. If your child is older than 6 months of age, you should speak to your pediatrician before you consider switching to cow’s milk.

Both the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics also warn against using homemade infant formula. A homemade formula may contain too little or too much of the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs.

What to do if you can’t find formula? Talk with your Ob/Gyn or pediatrician, they may know of distribution programs or available local supplies. Local charities, food banks, and your local WIC office may also be able to suggest places with current stock. (You don’t have to qualify or sign up for WIC to call them.)

Here are some resources that may also help:

American Academy of Pediatrics Infant Formula resources are available here in both Spanish and English.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Infant Formula Resources are available here in both Spanish and English.

The FDAs Questions & Answers for Consumers Concerning Infant Formula are available here.

To find your local WIC office please click here.  


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