Finding Infant Formula: What You Need to Know

Update February 17, 2023: Formula availability has improved. Learn more about formulas offered by California WIC.

On October 14, 2022, Abbott issued a voluntary proactive recall for some 2 fluid oz Ready-to-Feed formulas. Read more about the most recent recall here.

What’s Going On?

The impacts of the ongoing pandemic and the 2022 recall of certain powdered infant formulas have led to periodic shortages and low stock of major brands of formula in stores. The USDA and California Department of Public Health WIC have added additional options and implemented flexibilities to help connect WIC families with formula. In this article, you will find resources to help you make informed decisions during this difficult time.

Where can I find infant formula for my baby?

Before you shop, download the CA WIC App to find grocers near you that accept WIC. If you do not have access to the WIC app, you can also find a list of WIC-authorized grocers on the California Department of Public Health website.

Other things you can do:

  • Call the grocery store before you go to ask if they have infant formula in stock and when they expect their next shipment.
  • Use the Walmart Baby Formula Availability Webpage to find available formula options at any Walmart store or online.   
  • Try another brand of formula if it’s available. Click on the formula icon in your food balance to see other options you can purchase with your WIC benefits. Babies can usually tolerate other formulas well unless your baby is drinking a special therapeutic formula. In those cases, we recommend consulting with your baby’s healthcare provider.
  • If you’re receiving a special formula from WIC or your baby’s health insurance and cannot find your formula at any stores, please contact your local WIC office. Your doctor may prescribe another formula that will work well for your baby.
  • If you cannot find baby formula at any store, try calling your baby’s doctor to see if they have in-office samples available.     
  • Check your Food Balance on the California WIC app to confirm the type of formula you can buy. Click the formula icon on your Food Balance to see the full list of formulas available to you, or scan the formula with the WIC app to confirm it’s the correct item before checking out.

What Additional Formulas Can I Buy?

California WIC temporarily added more container sizes and brands to help you find a formula for your baby during this shortage. If your CA WIC benefits show one of the categories below, you can temporarily buy any formulas on that category’s list. Please check this list regularly before you shop. These temporary options may change each month.

Many of these lists include imported formulas. Learn how to safely prepare imported formula.

If you have any questions about your CA WIC benefits, text 91997 to talk to a WIC counselor.

If you have trouble purchasing a formula, call 1-800-852-5770 to report the problem and resolve it as soon as possible.

*Important Information for CA WIC Vendors.

Can I make Baby formula at home?

Do not make your own baby formula at home.

Infant formula is the primary nutritional source for formula-fed infants from birth to 6 months of age or until they start solid foods. Even after starting solids, infants still rely on formula to meet their nutritional needs. The FDA strictly regulates the production of infant formulas. There are requirements for certain nutrients in infant formulas that may not be present in homemade formulas for healthy infant growth and development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly warns against homemade infant formulas. Even a few weeks of poor nutrition can lead to lifelong impacts on development and even result in infant death. In addition, there have been reports of hospitalization of infants suffering hypocalcemia (low calcium) after being fed homemade formula. Some symptoms of hypocalcemia include irritability, muscle twitches, tremors, and seizures.

Do not dilute baby formula. It is strongly advised not to water down infant formula to make it last longer. While it might seem harmless, watered-down formula can lead to infant water intoxication. Some signs of water intoxication include nausea, vomiting, irregular breathing, and weakness. Adding extra water will also diminish the nutritional value of the formula. Find more information on proper infant formula preparation here.

What Are Counterfeit Formulas?

Counterfeit formulas are infant formulas that have been repackaged with a fake label. These could be formulas that have been repackaged with a new expiration date or a completely different formula with unknown ingredients. This can be very dangerous, especially to infants who drink specialty formulas due to allergies or intolerances. To protect infants from counterfeit formulas do not shop from unknown retailers or outside of the U.S. Always lookout for changes in the taste and color of your baby’s formula. If buying by case make sure the lot numbers and the “use by” date on the containers and boxes are the same. Call the manufacturer’s toll-free number with any concerns or questions.

My baby is not here yet, how can I prepare?

Breastfeeding provides added immunity and is the optimal nutrition for healthy development. If you are expecting your baby and considering your feeding options, know that CA WIC has many resources available to help you reach your goal, including one-on-one support from certified lactation educators, breastfeeding support groups, infant feeding helpline, virtual group classes, free lactation consultation appointments, and an electronic breast pump loan program. Breastfeeding parents receive more monthly foods in their WIC Food Package, and are eligible to continue receiving WIC food benefits until their baby’s 1st birthday.

New Research: Increased WIC Cash Value Benefit Positively Impacts WIC Participants

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA approved an increase to the Cash Value Benefit (CVB) for purchase of fruits and vegetables for WIC participants. A recent study by the PHFE WIC Research Team finds that participants were highly satisfied and reported increased purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

With the CVB increase, participants reported improved quality and variety of fruits and vegetables purchased.

I thought (the CVB increase) was amazing, because we eat more FV since there’s
been an increase. (Before the increase) we were eating more processed food and I
do not think that my daughter was getting adequate nutrition from eating those
types of foods and she’s a picky eater too. So now that I am cooking vegetables
with every dinner and we’re snacking on FV throughout the day

-WIC Participant

It (CVB increase) was super good because we managed to buy more variety of FV
and are able to make a salad or make other FV for the children

-WIC Participant

This increase is temporary and currently set to end September 30, 2022. These findings support maintaining the increased CVB in the WIC food package permanently.

Read the full study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health here.

New Research: Lactose-reduced Infant Formula Can be Associated with Higher Risk for Obesity

A new study by the PHFE WIC Research Team suggests that lactose-reduced infant formulas could have a correlation with a higher risk for childhood obesity. Infants who were given lactose-reduced formulas had a 10% higher risk for obesity at age 2 than infants who drank lactose-based formulas.

Lactose-reduced formulas remove the lactose carbohydrate from cows’ milk and replace it with corn syrup solids. These formulas quickly raise blood sugar and may cause rapid weight gain.

Are Babies Lactose Intolerant?

Marketers encourage parents with babies who cry more frequently than others to buy lactose-reduced formula by using words like “sensitive” or “gentle”. Most full-term babies are born with lactase enzymes that help them digest the lactose found in breast milk and formula. Only a small percentage of babies are lactose intolerant, usually preterm infants who did not develop the enzyme. Lactose intolerance usually develops from ages 3 to 5.

Should I stop giving my baby lactose-reduced formula?

Not at all! If you’re currently giving your baby lactose-free or lactose-reduced formula and baby is doing well, continue to offer what works best for your baby. If you’re noticing that your baby is fussy and want to change formulas, speak to your medical provider before making the switch. There are several reasons why baby may be fussy such as overstimulation, growing pains, or being tired. Learning how to understand your baby’s behavior will help you identify what your baby might need.

Read the full study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition here.

WIC Research: Kids Benefit from Longer WIC Participation

Longer WIC Participation is Associated with Higher Quality Diet at 5 years of Age

A recent study by PHFE WIC’s research team and colleagues at UC Oakland found that longer WIC participation is associated with lower household food insecurity and higher diet quality.

This study compared children who participated in the WIC program for 1 to 4 years. They assessed diet quality, household food insecurity, and obesity at the end of WIC eligibility at 60 months.

The results showed that children who participated in the WIC program for the entire five years had a 31% lower chance of food insecurity than those who participated for shorter periods. In addition, children who participated for the full five years were also associated with higher overall diet quality.

These findings suggest that the WIC program promotes healthier lifelong habits and provides food stability to low-income families.

Read the full study published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Register for WIC’s webinar for providers on August 24!

August is National Breastfeeding Month! Join WIC, Health Net, and L.A. Care Health Plan for a live webinar, “WIC: All Your Questions Answered: From Breastfeeding to Formula Updates to Making Referrals!”  on Wednesday August 24, from 12 pm to 1 pm.

Who Should Attend?

  • Clinicians (i.e.: MDs, PCPs, OBGYNs, NPs, RNs, MAs)
  • Case Managers
  • Front and back-office staff

Questions? Email


Referring to WIC

Blanca Vargas, MPA, RDN
Senior Manager of Operations at PHFE WIC

Breastfeeding Services

Cindy Clapp, MS, RDN, IBCLC
Deputy Director of Breastfeeding Services at PHFE WIC

Formula Transition and Formula Shortage

Sagrario Nielsen, MS, RDN
Deputy Director of Nutrition Services and Projects at PHFE WIC

August is National Breastfeeding Month!

All parents with young children should have access to skilled breastfeeding and chestfeeding counseling and support from their health facilities, workplaces, and communities.

WIC is committed to being part of parents’ support systems by providing free phone, online, virtual, and in-person services.

Every year, August 1-7, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. This year, the theme “Step Up For Breastfeeding: Educate and Support” reaffirms WIC’s important role in parents’ support and breastfeeding education.

In Honor of Breastfeeding Month: Join us in August at our Community Resource Fairs!

Facebook Live “Breastfeeding Q&A with an LC!”

Get answers to all your breastfeeding and chestfeeding questions! Join WIC’s Facebook live event. Everyone is welcome.

Events have concluded.

Get answers to all your breastfeeding questions!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 from 11:00am-12pm PDT

Click the 'Join now' button below on the day and time of the event to connect. See you there!

¡Obtenga respuestas a todas sus preguntas sobre lactancia!

martes, 9 de agosto, 2022 de 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

Haga clic en el botón '¡Únase ahora!' el día y la hora del evento para conectarse en Zoom.


2022 年 8 月 16 日,星期二,下午 2:00 至下午 3:00(太平洋夏令時間)

在小组活动当天只需点击立即加入Join now' 键即可上连接。到时候见!

Nhận câu trả lời cho tất cả các câu hỏi về nuôi con bằng sữa mẹ của bạn.

Thứ ba, ngày 16 tháng 8 năm 2022 11:00 sáng - 12:00 trưa theo giờ PDT

Nhấp vào nút 'Tham gia ngay' vào ngày và giờ của nhóm hỗ trợ để kết nối!

Important Dates in the month of August


In celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week, CinnaMoms will be hosting two events:

Facebook Live Breastfeeding FAQ Session with a Lactation Consultant on August 25th from 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM.

Community Resource Fair at St. Andrew’s Place WIC on August 30th from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

WIC Protects Breastfeeding and Chestfeeding

Infant feeding is a journey. WIC is here for parents every step of the way to educate, empower, and encourage parents to reach their goals for feeding their babies. WIC educates parents about breastfeeding and chestfeeding basics, overcoming challenges, returning to work, nursing in public, expressing and storing milk, and more.

Breastfeeding and chestfeeding services available to WIC participants:

Click here for more information about WIC breastfeeding and chestfeeding services.