We recognize the infant formula shortage is making what can already be stressful time as a new parent even more stressful.

Amelia Henning, CNM, MSN, IBCLC
Director of Mass General Lactation Program and Staff Nurse-Midwife, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital

Many new parents are currently experiencing the significant shortage of infant formula that will likely take months before it is fully resolved. But in the meantime, parents and caregivers still need to find safe and healthy human milk or formula to feed their babies.

“A baby who has an allergy or related restriction exacerbates the formula shortage because a different kind of formula cannot be easily used in place of something very specific,” says Navneet Virk Hundal, MD, Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Co-Director of the Food Allergy Center at Mass General for Children.

Although it’s still challenging to find formula, for the majority of infants on regular formulas (not prescription and not hypoallergenic), there are still options. 

However, the infants who have metabolic disorders and allergies or who require highly specialized formula, do not have a long list of alternatives. It is imperative that these families communicate with their pediatrician and/or gastroenterologist to equip them with a list of alternatives within their class of specialized formula, tailored to their medical conditions. It’s also important to take into account their age, other nutrition they are consuming/able to consume and their growth/weight gain trajectories. As all infants get older and their development evolves, there may be other options which may do not seem obvious.     

Resources and feeding options for parents and caregivers:

1. Resources to obtain formula

Help can be found locating formula through the fact sheet created by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and, for those eligible, local Women, Infants, & Children Nutrition Program offices (also known as WIC). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also compiled infant formula safety tips to keep in mind as you consider alternative purchasing sources. As always, questions about choice of formula and alternatives should be directed back to the infant’s pediatrician. Watering down formula and homemade formula is never recommended.

2. Resource to donate or obtain human milk

For those who are currently lactating and have an abundance of milk, donations are welcome to a local milk bank. Interested parents who want to obtain human milk can also learn more about that process and availability of milk that meets the dietary needs of your infant.

3. Resources to prepare for breastfeeding

If you are currently pregnant and want to prepare to breastfeed your infant, the Mass General Lactation Program in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has resources to support prenatal preparation and planning for postpartum lactation support.

4. Re-lactating

Some patients have asked questions about re-lactating due to the lack of available formula. The success of re-lactation is largely dependent on how long it has been since producing milk, and other factors that impacted the choice of infant feeding. In general, hormonal preparation and galactagogues (substance that increases milk supply) are needed in addition to frequent stimulation through feeding at the breast, hand expression, and pumping.

Patients who are interested and willing to commit to the time and effort required to stimulate production of milk can request an appointment with Amelia Henning, CNM, MSN, IBCLC, Director of Mass General Lactation Program, in the lactation medicine clinic by calling the OB department at 617-724-2229.