What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Infant Feeding

The health and safety of infants has always been and remains a top priority of the members of the Infant Nutrition Council of America. This page will be updated as new information becomes available.

Availability of Infant Formula

Members of the Infant Nutrition Council of America want to reassure parents and caregivers that there is infant formula available to meet their needs. Manufacturers have increased production and are working with retailers and government agencies to help ensure availability and continued access to infant formula.

There have been reports of an increase in demand in certain areas, and—in some locations—limits on purchases. Parents are encouraged to keep a 10-day to two-week supply of infant formula on hand. In order to help ensure all parents and caregivers are able to obtain the formula they need, please avoid unnecessary stockpiling.

WIC Benefits Are Specific to Certain Types of Infant Formula

Parents and caregivers should be aware that WIC benefits are specific to certain types of infant formula. Formula companies are committed to ensuring continued availability of infant formulas for every baby; including WIC-approved infant formulas. If you do not see WIC-approved formula on shelves at your retailer, speak to the store manager.

INCA encourages parents who feed powdered infant formula and are not WIC participants, to only purchase larger sized products (>14 oz) when possible. This helps ensure WIC-approved infant formulas (for powdered infant formula, it’s usually a small can < 14 oz) are available for the families who need them. For information on the WIC program, to apply for benefits, or to learn about how to access benefits in your state, visit the National WIC Association website here.

Where to Purchase Infant Formula

Infant formula can be safely purchased from reputable retailers, either in their brick and mortar stores or through their official website, as well as directly from the manufacturer.

Purchasing infant formula from individuals, such as at flea markets, on e-commerce websites, or on internet auction sites, is not recommended. These products may have been improperly stored or shipped, which can negatively affect the quality of the formula. Be sure to always look for any punctures, dents or evidence of potential tampering, and check the use by date on each container of formula before purchasing and/or using.

Emergency Sources of Infant Formula

In emergency situations, local food pantries, churches, shelters and hospital emergency rooms may provide small amounts of infant formula that will be supplied based on need. Contact Feeding America or dial 2-1-1 to be connected to a community resource specialist who can help you find local resources. If you have questions about questions or concerns about feeding your infant, please contact your baby’s doctor.

Maintaining Quality Manufacturing Practices

All infant formulas marketed in the United States continue to be manufactured under strict and robust food safety, food security, and quality programs to ensure every product meets or exceeds the expectations of consumers, health care providers, and regulatory bodies. During this time, manufacturers are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of infant formula including routine assessments of plant/factory personnel and working with local authorities as needed.

Safe Bottle Preparation & Unsafe Feeding Practices
  • Practice Safe Bottle Preparation, Cleaning, and Storage: Whether you use formula or expressed breast milk in bottles, there are basic bottle safety rules to follow. To start, always wash your hands before and after feeding. If you use formula, make sure to read the preparation directions and mix it correctly. Never use a microwave to warm bottles; instead put them in warm water on top of the stove. Visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for infant formula preparation and storage information and infantnutrition.org for a thorough checklist of all the steps you should take when preparing bottles.
  • Do Not Dilute Infant Formula: American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Center for Disease Control (CDC)  advise that diluted formula will not provide adequate nutrition and, if fed for an extended period of time, may result in slower growth and risk of malnutrition. Additionally, the AAP warns that excessive water consumption could result in water intoxication, which can cause seizures and even death in infants. Families should follow proper mixing instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Do Not Make Homemade Formula: The FDA strongly recommends against making and feeding homemade infant formula. There is evidence that homemade infant formulas, which can contain raw, unpasteurized cow, goat, or sheep milk, can lead to life-threating bacterial infections, especially in infants. Additionally, homemade infant formula may lack appropriate levels of nutrients needed to support healthy infant growth and brain development. In some cases, catchup growth and development for these deficiencies is not possible. U.S. government agencies and healthcare organizations only recommend breast milk and/or commercial infant formula for feeding young infants.
  • Do Not Feed Cow’s Milk to Infants: Cow’s milk is not appropriate for children under the age of one year, as they cannot digest cow’s milk as easily as breast milk or infant formula. Additionally, iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional problem in infants, and cow’s milk does not provide a sufficient amount of iron to meet a baby’s needs.
  • Do Not Share Breastmilk: According to the FDA, babies fed human milk from a source other than their own mother could be exposed to infectious diseases (including HIV), to chemical contaminants (such as some illegal drugs), and some prescription drugs if the donor has not been adequately screened.
Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and COVID-19

Click here to access the CDC’s Q&A about pregnancy and COVID-19.