What to Do During a Baby Formula Shortage

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Baby Formula substitutions during a shortage

These are unprecedented times and shelves where infant formula used to be are empty. Many parents are struggling to find formula to feed their growing babies with some parents driving across the border to try to get their hands on some formula. This shortage is being felt in both Canada and the United States. These empty shelves can be quite terrifying and anxiety provoking for parents especially for those who have babies that have a food allergy and need a hypoallergenic formula to grow and thrive.

What is causing this formula shortage?

Similar to jobs, food, and children’s pain medicine, this is all fallout from covid. Labor and supply chain issues have now hit the formula manufacturers. Abbott, a huge manufacturer of infant formula, closed their Michigan facility due to a recent outbreak of Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella in early February 2022. These germs and bacteria are found in low-moisture food products such as:

  • Powdered infant formula
  • Powdered milk
  • Herbal teas
  • Starches

Powdered infant formula can be contaminated in homes or in processing facilities that make it.

Powdered formula can get Cronobacter after you open the container. Cronobacter can live on surfaces where you prepare the formula, such as a kitchen counter or sinks, and/or in water. Cronobacter can get into powdered formula if formula lids or scoops are placed on contaminated surfaces and later touch the formula, or if the formula is mixed with contaminated water and/or in a contaminated bottle.

Cronobacter can cause a contaminated powdered infant formula at the processing site if the manufacturer uses contaminated raw materials to make the formula, or the formula powder touches a contaminated surface.

What should I do if my baby’s formula is sold out in stores and online?

If your little one does not need a hypoallergenic, or specialized formula, you can switch them to a different brand. Most of the cow’s milk based formulas are virtually the same so you do not need to stay with the same brand if it is unavailable.

Help! None of my local grocery stores have the formula I am looking for.

If your local grocery stores do not have the formula you are looking for, you can try you local pharmacies, online, or you can ask your family doctor, paediatrician or paediatric allergist if they have any samples.

My baby has a milk or soy allergy and their formula is not available. What should I do?

If your little one has started solids, you can meet their nutritional needs with solids and a milk alternative. However, it is very strongly recommended you work with a paediatric dietitian as milk alternatives are much lower in calories and fat than breastmilk, formula or cows milk. To ensure their nutritional needs (specifically calories and fat) can be met. If your little one is not yet ready to start solids and relies on a hypoallergenic formula such as Alimentum, Alimentum Ready to Feed, Nutramigen, Puramino, Neocate, or Elecare and they are unavailable, try connecting with your local pharmacy, looking online or ask your allergist or paediatric dietitian if it is possible to switch to a different brand. You can book in with one of our paediatric dietitans to support you through this.


  • Water down formula to stretch it further
  • Make your own formula
  • Stockpile formula
  • Use unpasteurized formula

Homemade formula?

Do not make your own homemade formula. Registered Dietitian Jennifer House wrote an amazing post on this here.

Can I substitute with unpasteurized goat, camel or cow’s milk?

Unpasteurized milk is illegal in Canada. Your baby’s immune system is not strong enough to fight off bacteria found in unpasteurized milk products. Pasteurization is a process in which chilled, raw, milk is heated until it reaches 161°F. The milk is held at 161°F for 15 seconds before it is cooled again. This kills off any bacteria making the milk safe to drink.

You can book in with one of our paediatric dietitans to support you through this

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