Information for WIC Families on Infant Formula Availability
The impacts of the ongoing pandemic and the recent 2022 Abbott recall of certain powdered infant formula have led to periodic shortages of major brands of formula.
The infant formula supply chain problems have affected all consumers, including California families using WIC benefits to purchase formula.
The California Department of Public Health/Women, Infants and Children Division (CDPH/WIC) is here to provide the latest information and connect California families to helpful resources.
- Steps we are taking
- Temporary formula options
- Finding formula
- Infant formula safety
- Breastfeeding support and education
- Banked human milk
- Questions and answers
- Abbott recall information
Steps we are taking
CDPH/WIC is keeping watch on reports of widespread low stock, shortages, and limiting of powdered infant formula in California.
CDPH/WIC is also working closely with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to monitor access to WIC-provided formulas.
The USDA has provided state WIC agencies regulatory flexibilities in response to the recall. CDPH/WIC has made it a top priority to identify and implement flexibilities.
CDPH/WIC is working closely with Mead Johnson and has made it a top priority to identify and implement flexibilities and get Enfamil formula to the areas with shortages.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a
as families remain concerned about the availability of safe and affordable baby formula.
The California Department of Justice is watching the market closely for price fixing and other potential violations of the law.
Californians who believe they have information relating to potential violations of the law should report it on the
Department of Justice website.
Temporary formula options
WIC families unable to find their regular formula can temporarily mix and match over 100 formulas found in the lists below. Please contact your local WIC office if you have any questions about your new options.
WIC approved formula substitutions:
If your benefits show one of the categories below, you can buy any formulas on that category’s list.
- Powder Formulas English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- 12.5 oz Enfamil Infant Powder Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- 12.4 oz Gentlease Powder Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- 12.4 oz Enfamil Reguline Powder Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- 12.9 oz Enfamil A.R. Powder Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- 12.9 oz Enfamil ProSobee Powder Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- 13 oz Enfamil ProSobee Concentrate Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- Ready to Feed Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- Ready to Feed Soy Formula English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
- Therapeutic Formulas English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)
Finding your approved formula:
In Example A, the family’s food balance shows they have been issued 5.0 cans in the 12.5 oz Enfamil Infant Powder Formula category. This means that they can buy any of the formulas in list found above named: “12.5 oz Enfamil Infant Powder Formula.”
In Example B, the family’s food balance shows they have been issued 5.0 cans in the Powder Formulas category. This means that they can buy any of the formulas in the list found above named: “Powder Formulas.”
Tips before you shop:
- Shop at WIC approved stores. Find WIC grocers at MyFamily.WIC.ca.gov.
- Try to find your regular formula first.
- Scan the product with your California WIC App to confirm it is approved before checking out at the register.
- If unable to use the WIC App while shopping, use the lists above to confirm a product is approved before checking out at the register.
- You can buy more than one kind of formula if it is on the list.
- Larger containers will use more of your benefits because they make more formula.
Please contact your local WIC office to see how these options work for you or if you have any questions.
CDPH/WIC will continue to work with Mead Johnson on formula availability in California. This webpage will be updated as more formulas are added.
The new options are temporary and will be removed when CDPH/WIC finds that contract formulas are once again widely available.
How to find infant formula
WIC families can do the following to find infant formula that is safe for their baby:
Purchase formula at the beginning of the WIC family’s benefit cycle.
Families should not wait to make purchases until the end of their benefit period. The California WIC Card allows families to make many purchases throughout the same benefit cycle.
WIC families do not have to purchase formula all at once. They may be able to purchase more than one kind and container size of formula during the shortages.
Please contact your local WIC office if you have more questions.
Contact a pediatrician or health care provider to see if the provider can help.
They may have in-office samples or suggestions for a similar formula that may be more available and is nutritionally like their infant’s usual formula.
- Consult manufacturer hotlines and community resources for help in finding formula.
Call stores before shopping to see what WIC-approved formulas are available to purchase.
Ask grocers what days they expect formula shipments. It may be necessary to make more shopping trips or shop at more than one location to get all their formula.
Nearby WIC-authorized grocers can be found
here or on the
California WIC app.
Some WIC-approved grocers may have purchase limits for formula.
Purchase limits are allowed if the limits are for all customers, not just WIC families.
For more resources in finding formula or increasing breastmilk supply, parents and caregivers can visit the following websites:
Infant Formula Safety
The FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warn against using recipes to make homemade infant formula.
Using homemade infant formula can lead to serious health problems for babies. A baby’s nutritional needs are very specific, especially in the first year of life.
Homemade infant formulas may contain too little or too much of certain components, such as vitamins and minerals like iron.
Homemade infant formula may also be more easily contaminated, which could lead to babies getting sick or developing an infection.
Families should stick with products that meet federal standards. These products ensure formula is safe and free of harmful bacteria and meet an infant’s nutritional needs.
Families should contact a pediatrician or health care provider with any concerns about medically appropriate, safe feeding alternatives.
Breastfeeding support and education
Keeping up a good milk supply or making more milk during the infant formula shortage crises.
The answer is simple, the more often you breastfeed, the more milk you will make.
Breastfeed every time your baby is hungry. In the early weeks, your baby will eat at least 8-12 times every 24 hours. Do not put your baby on a strict feeding schedule. Follow your baby's cues, and let your baby tell you when it's time to eat.
Make sure your baby is latching well. You can follow the tips here to help you get a good latch—and know if you have one.
Offer both breasts at each feeding. Let your baby finish the first side, then offer the other side.
Empty both breasts at each feeding. To make more milk, hand express or pump after a feeding to draw out all the milk and signal your body to make more.
Avoid bottles and pacifiers in the early weeks. Feed your baby from your breast whenever you can.
Pump or express your milk.
To make more milk: Pumping or expressing milk frequently between nursing sessions, and consistently when you are away from your baby, can help build your milk supply. Be sure to pump your milk if you are at work or school or away from your baby as often as you would breastfeed your baby at home.
To keep your milk supply: Be sure to pump your milk if you are at work or school or away from your baby as often as you would breastfeed your baby at home.
Take good care of your breast pump. Read the pump instructions or watch a video so you know when to replace the valve or if you need to use a larger breast flange. Both things can affect your milk supply.
Store your breastmilk safely. Follow recommended guidelines to safely store your expressed milk. You can find the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended storage and preparation techniques here.
Relax and massage. Relax, hold your baby skin-to-skin, and massage your breasts before feeding to encourage your milk to let down.
Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat well, drink enough fluids, and let others help you.
Have questions? Contact your WIC counselor or WIC breastfeeding support professional. They can talk to you about your concerns and give you tips to increase your supply.
WIC has offices throughout California. Call your local WIC office for an appointment and locations near you. Visit MyFamily.WIC.ca.gov to find out if you are eligible for WIC or for the nearest WIC office.
Source: USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support
Relactation or restarting breastfeeding.
Is it possible to restart breastfeeding (relactation)?
Relactation is possible but not always easy. Set realistic expectations based on your individual circumstances.
What is Relactation?
Relactation is a way a person may be able to build a milk supply and start breastfeeding again after having stopped breastfeeding or pumping.
A lactation support professional can provide specific guidance on relactation practices by assessing each family’s individual situation.
Parents and caregivers who are eligible for WIC can go to their local WIC program for help with relactation or for a lactation referral.
Parents and caregivers should contact their health care provider about ways to get lactation support.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering relactation:
Babies under 3 months of age have the most success.
Babies who have breastfed before are usually more willing.
If your baby will not latch or breastfeed, try exclusively pumping to increase milk supply. Once you start making milk again, your baby may be willing to breastfeed.
Breastfeed as often as baby is willing.
Offer both breasts at least every 2-3 hours.
Use an electric pump after offering the breast to empty the breast. This will help increase your milk supply.
As your baby gets more of your milk, you can begin to decrease the amount of formula offered.
It takes time
Commit to trying to relactate for 4 weeks. It can take a few days to a month or more before you start making milk again.
The less time that has passed since weaning, the faster your milk supply will return.
Offer breast when baby is not too hungry or sleepy.
Increase skin-to-skin contact to help build your milk supply.
Limit distractions as baby may be more willing to breastfeed in a calm and quiet place.
Massage your breast while baby is at the breast. This helps baby empty the breast so your breasts will make more milk.
If you are thinking about relactation, talk to a lactation support professional or your health care provider.
To find a lactation support specialist click here or contact your health plan for more information.
If you are a WIC participant, contact your WIC Local Agency to determine if a lactation specialist is available.
Adapted from: Idaho WIC Program, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Public Health Division
Banked Human Milk
Banked human milk may be a safe and nutritious option for some families to feed their infants.
Families who wish to use banked human milk must have a prescription from their pediatrician or health care provider with a medical diagnosis, amount needed, and duration of the prescription.
Families are advised to only use human milk provided from a Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) certified milk bank.
Families are advised not to buy human milk on-line or participate in informal human milk sharing as it may not be safe and may be harmful to their infant.
Most health insurance plans have guidelines for when banked human milk is a covered benefit.
Check with your health plan to see if it will be covered or available at a lower cost.
When it is not covered, the cost is $4.00 - $5.00 per ounce, plus the cost of shipping.
For California Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program Participants:
Banked human milk is not a WIC-approved benefit and is not available for purchase with the California WIC Card.
Maybe you’d like to donate breast milk and this is a wonderful gift to share.
More information on how to donate or purchase banked human milk can be found at Mothers' Milk Bank in San Jose or the University of California Health Milk Bank in San Diego, the two certified human milk banks in California.
Questions and answers
Can I buy non-WIC formula with my WIC Card?
California WIC has added more types and sizes of formula to what you can buy with your WIC benefits.
on temporary formula options can be found here.
Ask your local WIC office if you have questions about formula options. CDPH/WIC is working with Mead Johnson (Enfamil branded formulas)
and the USDA to provide more options to WIC families. CDPH/WIC will update this webpage if any further changes are made.
What if I cannot find my prescription formula?
If your family’s health care provider has written a prescription for a special formula, and it is not available at any stores, you should contact your local WIC office.
They can help determine what alternate formulas are available with WIC benefits.
You may be referred to your health care provider for another prescription formula that can be purchased with WIC benefits.
What breastfeeding support and education does WIC provide?
All WIC local agencies provide infant feeding support for breastfeeding, partially breastfeeding, and formula feeding parents.
WIC is here to help support families who are experiencing breastfeeding problems or just have questions.
All WIC counselors are trained in infant feeding support.
WIC offices also have trained breastfeeding support professionals such as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs).
These professionals can help with more difficult breastfeeding challenges if they occur.
Some WIC agencies offer breastfeeding peer counselor support. These are parents who have breastfed their babies and are available to offer peer-to-peer support.
WIC families should check with their local WIC office to see what type of support and education can be provided for families.
Abbott recall information
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Updates:
The FDA provides regular updates on the investigation at the Abbott Sturgis, MI production facility.
WIC families can subscribe to updates from the FDA to receive reliable and timely information.
The FDA also provides a consumer-friendly webpage about the recall and formula safety.
For infants under three months, born prematurely, or who have a weakened immune system, both the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) are currently recommending additional precautions.