How to find formula and other necessities for your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 30, 2020

Photo: Getty Images

Having a new baby during the COVID-19 pandemic understandably brings about worry and uncertainty for parents. We are here to help offer you some reassurance and guidance to keep your family safe and healthy.

Many parents want to know the essentials their baby needs and how to find them.

For feeding infants, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that breastmilk can still be safely fed to your baby, even if a mother may have COVID-19.  Based on current knowledge, it is not known whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus through breastmilk. However, limited studies on breastfeeding women with COVID-19 and other coronavirus infections have not detected the virus in the breastmilk.

Breastfeeding your baby: The bigger concern is the mother may transmit the virus through respiratory droplets. If mom has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, it is recommended she wear a mask when feeding her baby and wash her hands well prior to and after nursing.

Pumping for your baby: If mom has suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and is pumping her milk, it is recommended she wear a mask while pumping, wash hands prior to and after pumping, and follow pump manufacturer guidelines on cleaning pump parts daily. Another healthy caregiver, if available, should feed your baby the pumped milk in order to decrease the risk of spreading the virus to your baby through respiratory droplets. If there is no other caregiver available, mom can wear a mask while feeding baby the pumped milk.

Formula-fed babies: For formula-fed babies, some stores have experienced shortages of formula due to overbuying. These shortages should improve. If you cannot find your baby’s usual formula brand, it is appropriate to change to another similar formula in a different brand, or the store brand. You may also want to try direct-ship options for formula instead of going to the store. You can find these options through the formula company’s website or through Amazon, Target, Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club.  Some of these stores have online ordering with curbside pick-up or delivery. 

If you cannot find a similar formula to what your baby typically eats, then we recommend calling your pediatrician’s office for advice on which alternatives would be best. Most formula companies have a customer support line that can help with alternative formula choices as well. We do not recommend feeding babies younger than 6 months of age anything other than formula or breastmilk. It’s very important to mix the formula properly and not dilute formula. Watering down formula can be very dangerous for your baby’s health. 

For babies older than 6 months of age, if you cannot find formula during this COVID-19 pandemic, whole cow’s milk for a few days is OK until the shortage improves, but should not be used long-term. We do not recommend milk alternatives like soy, almond or plant-based milks as they are not sufficient in protein, fatty acids and minerals. Toddler formula for a few days is also OK to use for babies older than 6 months of age.

As for diapers and wipes, you can alternate between brands if needed. You can use a clean washcloth and water as an alternative to baby wipes. Cloth diapers can be used as well. It is recommended you wash these on the hottest wash cycle possible to sanitize them.

Post by:

Allison Arthur MD, FAAP