Some social media users are sharing purported tips for buying baby formula during the ongoing nationwide shortage.
Now, some people are claiming there’s a way parents can get their state government to send them free baby formula cans if they call two customer service phone numbers.
“Due to the shortage of formula, if you call Enfamil or Similac they will notify the state you can’t find any and the state will send you a 6-pack of 12-ounce cans to your address for free!” one tweet reads.
Can people get free cans of Similac and Enfamil baby formula if they call customer service?
No, people can’t get free cans of Similac and Enfamil baby formula if they call customer service.
WHAT WE FOUND
The social media posts list a customer service phone number of 1-800-BABY123 for Enfamil, and the phone number 1-800-515-7677 for Similac.
VERIFY called both phone numbers and confirmed they are legitimate, but the automated messages don’t make any mention about parents receiving free cans of formula from their state or otherwise.
A spokesperson for Abbott Nutrition, which manufactures Similac baby formula, also confirmed that the social media posts are inaccurate.
Enfamil and Reckitt Benckiser, the formula manufacturer, did not respond to VERIFY’s requests for comment. But an automated message on Enfamil’s customer service line says the company is “unable to provide product samples or discounts at this time.” There isn’t any information on Enfamil’s website about free formula cans, either.
Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) state agencies provide baby formula for parents, but this program isn’t for the general public. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the WIC program, told VERIFY in an email that the agency is “unaware of any nationwide programs that send families free formula.”
Abbott is working with USDA and WIC agencies to offer rebates on competitive products when Similac is not available.
The company will continue to pay these rebates to state WIC agencies through Aug. 31. That means WIC program participants can still get formula free of charge, whether it is Similac or formula from another manufacturer, Abbott spokesperson Vicky Asardo said.
The baby formula shortage stems in part from product recalls. Abbott recalled some of its products in February 2022, including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powder formulas manufactured in the company’s Sturgis, Michigan, plant. The company is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on steps to resume production at the Michigan plant, an agreement subject to approval from the FDA and a court.
Enfamil formula products are not affected by any recalls.
A similar claim about free baby formula products circulated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
“Contrary to rumors in some online social networks, we are not distributing free cases of formula. We are instead focused on ensuring equitable availability for every baby,” Enfamil wrote in a tweet on March 20, 2020.
There are also more recent false claims about baby formula. A post that circulated widely on Facebook and Twitter advised parents who can’t find their baby’s formula to simply switch their Amazon accounts from the U.S. to Canada. VERIFY found that Amazon won’t ship baby formula from Canada to the United States; some third-party sellers who sell independently on Amazon may do this, but the cost of products and shipping is high and experts warn of safety concerns with buying formula internationally.
Here’s what parents should do if their trusted formula brand is out of stock.
First, call your OB-GYN or pediatrician to see if they have any in-office baby formula samples or ask if they can suggest a formula that may be more readily available and is nutritionally similar to their baby’s typical formula.
Generic formula brands from a grocery store or pharmacy as an alternative to your baby’s normal brand are “equally effective and safe to use,” pediatrician Ilan Shapiro, M.D., told VERIFY.
Shapiro also suggested breast milk banks, where other parents are giving away their breast milk, as an option if the baby’s formula brand isn’t available. The Human Milk Banking Association of America has a map and list of 31 member milk banks throughout the country online.