Infant Formula Shortage FAQs

By: Joseph Mechak, MD

As you have seen and experienced, there is currently a nationwide infant formula shortage.  We are fielding lots of questions about what to do during this stressful time.  Please take a look below for answers to some of the FAQs that we are fielding during this time.

Why is there a formula shortage? When will it end?

Supply chain issues, palm oil shortages, and the recent Abbott factory recall have all contributed to the shortage.  It is unclear when these issues will be resolved.  Our formula reps have told us that ‘production has increased dramatically over the past few weeks’ and that you should see more formula on shelves soon. 


Can I add more water to the bottle to make the formula last longer?

NO! It is dangerous to dilute your baby’s formula. It can lead to electrolyte imbalance and significant medical problems. You should ALWAYS mix formula as instructed on the product label. More on this here: – How to prepare formula


Can I use whole milk if I cannot find formula?

NO! Your baby should be drinking formula or breast milk until 1 year old.  Cow’s milk lacks essential nutrients and minerals that your baby needs.  It is also more difficult for your baby to digest properly until 1 year old.


Can I use toddler formula instead of infant formula?

NO! Infant and todder formulas are NOT the same. Infant formulas are designed specifically to provide the nutrients and calories for babies less than 1 year old.  The needs of older children are different therefore their formulas are, too. 


Can I switch between standard formula brands? 

YES! Think of different brands of formula as Coke and Pepsi.  It is safe to change between brands if you are having trouble finding your typical brand. You can even mix different brands if needed or if your baby does not immediately take to the new brand (they taste a little bit different).  Enfamil, Similac and Gerber are the “big 3” in terms of formula name brands. They each have their own standard formula – Enfamil NeuroPro, Similac ProAdvance/360 total care, Geber Goodstart- that are very similar. You can also use Costco, Target, Walmart, etc. brands which are made to closely mimic those of the “big 3.”  You can learn more about available products on the company websites:

Similac Formula Finder

Enfamil Formula Products

Gerber Formula Products


What should I do If my baby is on a specialized formula?

If your baby is on a special formula for any reason, please consult with your pediatrician about what specific alternatives would be best for your baby. 


Can I switch between Ready-to-feed (RTF)  liquid formula and powder formula?

YES! Ready-to-feed formulas are recommended for babies less than 2 months old.  Babies older than 2 months old typically use powdered formula but may continue the RTF formula. RTF and powdered formulas are the same in composition but RTF tends to be much more costly. 


Are imported formulas safe? 

Certain brands like HiPP and Holle have become popular in the United States over the past few years. The issue with these and other imported formulas is that they are not FDA approved or regulated. This makes it difficult to endorse them as they are not regulated or monitored in the same manner as other formulas.  For this reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against their use. See their statement here: – Imported Formulas


Can I use frozen breast milk? 

YES! Breast milk can be safely stored in a freezer for 6-12 months.  It can be used along with or in place of formula. You can use the two interchangeably and even mix them if needed.   See the specifics about safe storage here: – Breast milk storage


Does Potomac Pediatrics have formula for patients?

Unfortunately, no. While we do keep a small amount of formula in-house for specific scenarios, we just don’t have enough to give out to families.  


Additional Resources: – Infant Formula Shortage – Choosing a formula

FDA – Statement on Infant Formula Supply Shortages