Finding Infant Formula: What You Need to Know

What’s Going On?

The impacts of the ongoing pandemic, and the 2022 recall of certain powdered infant formula 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.
  • For Enfamil formula, try shopping at a large chain grocery store. Smaller “WIC only” stores are less likely to have Enfamil Infant, Enfamil Gentlease, Enfamil AR, and Enfamil Reguline in stock.
  • 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 for 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 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.