Amidst the nationwide infant formula shortage, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is connecting families with resources and sharing recommendations to help navigate supply issues safely.
NCDHHS is also broadening access to formula for families who use the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
The February recall of certain Abbott infant formulas increased the demand for other brands of formula, which has worsened the lingering effects of supply issues that arose during the pandemic nationwide.
For families struggling to find the formula they need, NCDHHS has several recommendations, as well as four important reminders for families:
- Do NOT water down your baby’s formula to stretch it out, it can be extremely dangerous to your baby to do so.
- Do NOT try to make homemade formula or give your baby toddler formula before their first birthday, these can also be dangerous to your baby.
- If you can’t find formula or can’t find your baby’s specific formula, work with your child’s health care provider to determine the best feeding plan.
- Only buy formula from reputable retailers, not from unknown individuals, online resellers or from overseas. How formula is stored and shipped can impact its safety for your baby.
NCDHHS is taking several actions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies and suppliers to help make it easier for families to access formula during this shortage, including:
- Through WIC, helping to connect families directly to needed formula and placing bulk orders with manufacturers on behalf of local WIC agencies and the families they serve.
- Using flexibility from the federal government to make it easier for WIC participants to access available formula. North Carolina is already using available USDA rule waivers to help retailers continue to serve WIC-enrolled families during the shortage and help families return or exchange formulas included in the recall.
- Working with the federal government to waive additional rules for the WIC program to make it easier for WIC participants to access available formula. North Carolina has requested waivers that would give WIC-enrolled families more flexibility to purchase other types of formula and in a wider variety of sizes based on availability and health care provider recommendations.
- Providing guidance to local WIC agencies and health care providers to make it easier for health care providers to give WIC-enrolled families several options of formula types and sizes on a single prescription to meet their children’s specialized formula needs.
- Closely monitoring the fluctuating formula supply across the state and keeping our partner organizations updated.
What can families do?
If a family is not able to find formula for their child, they should work with the child’s health care provider to determine the best feeding plan. For cow’s milk-based formula, a comparable other brand, including generic or store brand, smaller manufacturer, or organic options are generally fine.
Families can turn to community organizations, reputable online retailers, distributors, and manufacturers as sources for finding formula.
- Contact United Way’s 2-1-1 or dial 2-1-1 to be connected to a community resource specialist affiliated with United Way who may be able to help you identify food pantries and other charitable sources of local infant formula and baby food.
- Certain milk banks accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America are distributing donated breast milk to mothers in need; please note that some may require a prescription from a medical professional. Find an HMBANA-accredited milk bank near you.
Families can contact manufacturers for help in finding formula:
- Abbott’s Customer Service: 1-877-4Abbott or 1-800-986-8540 (recall specific information)
- Abbott’s product request line and form for metabolic formulas
- Reckitt’s (Mead Johnson) Customer Service line: call 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)
WIC participants who cannot find formula in local stores should first contact their local WIC agency to get help finding available formula in the community. If formula is not available in local stores, the local WIC agency may be able to submit an order request for the formula from the manufacturer through the state WIC agency, pending availability
Families using a combination feeding of breast milk and iron-fortified infant formula may wish to consider increasing the frequency of breastfeeding or pumping so that they do not need as much formula. Families can reach out to a local lactation specialist to try and help increase their supply of breastmilk.
NCDHHS will continue to update information for families and partner organizations and share at www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/child-and-family-well-being/community-nutrition-services.