Switching baby formulas? Here's what you need to know

The question has been a top search in the last month, according to Google Trends, which shows the query “is it bad to switch baby formula” has increased by 500%. 

Searches for “switch baby formula” and “change baby formula” also spiked in the last week in 23 states, including Kentucky, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia and Arizona.

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In most circumstances, switching baby formulas is a safe thing to do, according to feeding experts and health officials.

Store shelves are empty after a baby formula shortage. 

Store shelves are empty after a baby formula shortage.  (Fox News Digital)

The United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) says “switching brands or types of formula to one that is more available” is a safe and potentially helpful option that parents can take as they try to navigate the national formula shortage. 

“Unless a baby is on specialty formula, most ingredients are similar, and for regular formula, switching brands is not as harmful as many believe,” the association wrote in a press release on Saturday. “There are resources available to help parents compare the similar products across brands to allow families to purchase whatever formula may currently be in stock.”

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Jackee Haak, a North Dakota-based registered nurse and board member of the USLCA, told Fox News Digital that most baby formulas on store shelves are “generally the same, no matter the brand.”

“They are all consistent with their macronutrients – fats, carbohydrates and proteins – per ounce, as well as their vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes,” she continued. 

Most babies can be switched to a different formula without issue.

Most babies can be switched to a different formula without issue. (iStock)

Twenty-nine nutrients are required in formulations made by FDA-registered formula manufacturers, according to a consumer Q&A published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

The FDA has a list of exempt infant formulas that are marketed in the U.S., which are manufactured to address temporary and long term health conditions. Some of these formulas are prescribed by pediatricians.

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“Switching from the prescribed formula is where parents should exercise extreme caution,” Haak told Fox News Digital.

“If an infant is prescribed a specialty formula, the reason behind that prescription could range from an allergy to a need for different nutrition (ie: higher calorie for premature infants) or something like a metabolic disorder that leaves the infant unable to process certain nutrients,” she explained.

Most shelf brand formulas that are deemed “regular” can be switched without issue, according to Haak.

Twenty-nine nutrients are required in formulations made by FDA-registered formula manufacturers.

Twenty-nine nutrients are required in formulations made by FDA-registered formula manufacturers. (iStock)

“There may be some formulas where it’s more of a parental preference,” Haak said. “They might notice their infant is a little fussier while taking it, but [it] likely wouldn’t cause harm with short term use.”

“We would always recommend checking with the infant’s medical provider to verify,” Haak continued. “[But,] temporarily switching an infant’s formula when they do not have any of the medical conditions mentioned is preferred to making a homemade formula. There’s a delicate balance of electrolytes that could cause a lot of damage if they are off.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics also wrote “it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as Elecare (no store brand exists),” in a recent baby formula shortage guide. 

Babies that have a prescribed baby formula can't be switched to a ‘regular’ formula as easily.

Babies that have a prescribed baby formula can’t be switched to a ‘regular’ formula as easily. (iStock )

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service referred to the pediatric group’s guide on Friday, May 13.

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Animal- and plant-based milks can be given to babies that reach the age of one, according to the USDA. Exceptions can be made for babies under 12 months if a pediatrician has provided a parent with clear guidance. 

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