NEWS

What You Should Know Before You Buy Infant Formula Online

Shopping for formula online

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Key Takeaways

  • Buying infant formula online is convenient but requires a bit of research.
  • Purchasing your formula from a reputable online seller is critical.
  • Check to make sure the formula you purchase is FDA approved.

From comforters to bottles, diapers, and toys, there’s no limit to the items you can buy for your baby online, and infant formula is no exception. While buying your baby’s food with the click of a mouse may sound appealing, buyer beware. With numerous types of baby formula available worldwide, it can be hard to know what to pick, which is why experts say it’s important to do your homework to avoid unsafe or counterfeit options.

“Because your baby’s health and well-being are crucial, please take the time to do your research before ordering formula online. Failure to do so could severely impact your baby’s life,” advises Gwenneth Simmonds, PhD, CNM in Atlanta.

Things to Know When Buying Online

What’s in a name? Plenty, when you’re deciding what formula to buy for your baby. Experts recommend picking a trusted brand name when it comes to both the formula and the online store.

“First you want to make sure that it’s a reputable brand that you’re buying; that it’s one that you’ve heard about, a big company. Secondly, you want to buy it from a reputable source,” notes Daniel Ganjian, MD, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

Both of those factors, especially buying from a source you’re familiar with, can help stave off the possibility of getting a counterfeit or knock-off formula. Even if you use a source you trust, like Amazon or eBay, you still have to vet the individual seller. In a 2018 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office noted that when it purchased close to 50 items from third-party sellers on “popular consumer websites”, almost half of the items were counterfeit.

Daniel Ganjian, MD

First you want to make sure that it’s a reputable brand that you’re buying; that it’s one that you’ve heard about, a big company. Secondly, you want to buy it from a reputable source.

— Daniel Ganjian, MD

If you’re thinking of getting formula that is not from a name-brand manufacturer, Dr. Ganjian recommends running it by your pediatrician to get insight on whether it’s a good formula to consider.

It's important to pick an FDA-approved formula. The FDA sets limits for the 29 nutrients it requires in formula. Formulas that are not sold in the United States, but sent from overseas, do not need FDA approval, and therefore, may not have proper levels of these nutrients.

Red Flags

If all the factors check out and you proceed with ordering the formula online, be on the lookout for these red flags.

Examine the color and smell of the formula. If something seems off, don’t risk giving it to your baby. You should also look at the "use-by" date, to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with or covered up. Discounted formula sold online may be very close to or past the use-by date.

“Use-by dates are required by the FDA to ensure the formula contains the minimum quantity of each ingredient listed and the quality is acceptable for consumption. Formula should not be used after the use-by date,” states Dr. Simmonds.

Lastly, if a deal on infant formula seems too good to be true, it probably is.

"If anybody’s selling it very cheap, you have to ask yourself, why are they selling it so cheap,” Dr. Ganjian notes.

Resources

Several organizations list information that can prove helpful if you’re buying formula online or in stores. The FDA has a page of Frequently Asked Questions that can serve as a resource describing what to look for when buying baby formula. Clean Label Project provides information about food and quality safety, including infant formula. A number of well-known formula manufacturers also include nutritional information about their products, and some have costs listed, to give you an idea of what to expect to pay for it.

Buying infant formula from the comfort of your home is definitely an attractive option, as long as you shop wisely.

“Buying online can be convenient, but [you] need to proceed with caution and deal with reputable companies,” Dr. Simmonds concludes.

What This Means For You

Buying formula with the click of a mouse is an easy, convenient way to check a necessary item off of your to-do list. But it’s critical that you do your homework before making an online purchase. Check out the item you’re buying and know who you’re getting it from. Remember that if it’s incredibly inexpensive and a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. United States Government Accountability Office. Agencies can improve efforts to address risks posed by changing counterfeits market.

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Questions and answers for consumers concerning infant formula.