(WPRI) — Babies as young as 6 months old can drink cow’s milk as an alternative to formula amid the nationwide shortage, according to a new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP outlined their new recommendations Tuesday as a temporary option for parents who are not able to find formula for their babies.

“This is not ideal and should not become routine,” the AAP wrote.However, it is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula.”

Although the AAP said they don’t have a specific amount of cow’s milk that infants 6-12 months should have, they urged parents to follow the limit of no more than 24 ounces per day for children over a year old.

The AAP added that the recommendation is for babies who don’t need a specialty formula for allergies or other health needs.

For parents who have concerns about switching their child to cow’s milk, the AAP said to talk to their pediatrician.

The concern with giving an infant cow’s milk, according to the AAP, is making sure they get enough iron in order to prevent anemia. If given cow’s milk, babies over six months should be given plenty of solids containing iron in their diet.

Dr. Elizabeth Lange, a local pediatrician, said the AAP is still recommending that babies under 12 months old should be getting formula or breastmilk. This new guidance is aimed to help parents who cannot find formula and should only be on a temporary basis, according to Dr. Lange.

“Formula is most fortified with iron and vitamins that babies need in order for babies to grow healthy,” Dr. Lange said to 12 News. “If babies have cow’s milk full time before one year of age, there is a risk of iron deficiency anemia and other nutritional deficiencies. Whole milk is a stopgap method in this formula shortage.”

This month, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula hit 43%, leaving many parents scrambling.

Dr. Alanna Levine, spokesperson for the AAP, told CBS Mornings that parents should not be making their own formula or diluting store-bought due to its complexity.

“I’m going to caution parents against doing that,” Dr. Levine said. “Formula is so complex. It’s this delicate balance between of nutrients and minerals. The balance between protein and fat and if you throw that off it can actually be dangerous to the baby.”

On Wednesday, the Rhode Island Department of Health issued guidance for families who are having a difficult time finding formula:


  • If you have questions or concerns about whether your child’s nutritional needs are being met or about what formula you can give your infant, call your child’s pediatrician or RIDOH’s Health Information Line: (401) 222-5960.
  • If the kind of formula you usually use is not available, switch to another brand of formula that is available. Standard formula brand like Similac and Enfamil (soy or milk-based) are interchangeable. If your baby uses a specialized formula, check with your baby’s doctor to see if there is another formula you can use.
  • Check smaller stores, bodegas, or pharmacies to see if they have formula in stock. Call ahead of time to check if they have the formula you need.
  • The current formula shortage is being worsened by a large national recall of baby formula. Check the lot number on any formula you already have. Check the online list of lot numbers that have been recalled. If the lot number is not included in the recall and the formula is not expired, it is okay to use.
  • Women who are pregnant should consider breastfeeding. To learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding, visit RIDOH’s website. For breastfeeding and lactation resources, contact RIDOH at (401) 222-5960.
  • If your baby is six months or older, consider starting solid food to supplement formula.


  • Do not dilute formula or use extra water to make the powdered formula last longer. Follow the formula manufacturer’s preparation and storage directions.
  • Do not buy formula from people you don’t know on social media sites, online auctions, or overseas. You need to be careful to avoid scams. Order formula only from reputable and trustworthy sites.
  • Do not make homemade formula or give toddler formula to infants.
  • Do not give cow’s milk to children younger than age one. It is not safe to do that.*
  • Do not hoard formula. When there is a limited supply, we need to make sure there is enough for everyone. Some stores are limiting the amount of formula you can buy at one time.

*12 News asked RIDOH about their guidance that recommends parents don’t give cow’s milk to children younger than one.

A RIDOH spokesperson explained the CDC does not recommend cow’s milk before 12 months due to potential nutritional deficiencies, adding the AAP’s recommendation “is for situations when there is absolutely nothing else to provide.”