Baby formula shortage: Here are the safe substitutes

As the nationwide baby formula shortage continues, the state of Minnesota has created a list of WIC-approved substitutes for Similac formula products.

Here are the state's recommendations, as of May 4:

The Department of Health says many stores are offering the substitutions. If any recalled formulas were bought using a WIC card, they can be returned to the same store where they were purchased.

Why is there a shortage?

In February, Abbott Nutrition recalled Similac, Alimentum or EleCare powdered infant formulas as some products were linked to several infant hospitalizations, including two deaths, due to a rare bacterial infection. The recall came at a time when the industry was already facing supply chain and production issues.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers not to use Similac, Alimentum or EleCare powdered infant formulas if all the following are true:

  • The first two digits of the code are 22 through 37 AND
  • The code on the container contains K8, SH, or Z2, AND
  • The expiration date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later.

The shortage has prompted some stores to limit how many products you can buy at a time. At Walmart, customers are limited to five cans per day, and at CVS and Walgreens, you can only buy three products at once.

Target told FOX Television Stations in mid-April that it was "closely monitoring" the shortage, but it hasn’t announced in-store purchasing limits. On Target’s website, formula sales are capped at four cans.

On Wednesday, the FDA provided an update, writing that its teams are "working tirelessly to address and alleviate supply issues and will continue doing everything within our authority to ensure the production of safe infant formula products."

Doctor's recommendations

Dr. Eric Barth, a pediatrician at the Allina Health Ramsey Clinic, gave some recommendations in the meantime: check multiple stores, order online and be open to trying different formulas. For example, babies that used sensitive formula could switch to regular when they get older.

"If babies are old enough to where they can have solid foods, you can increase those solid foods," he explained.

Parents have also had success switching from name brand to store brand formulas. He said so far, those strategies have worked for his patients, and he hopes it stays that way.

‘There’s too much risk’: Doctors say don’t make your own baby formula at home