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Homemade Emergency Baby Formula Recipe

I'm an experienced mother, and these are things I always have on hand for emergencies. A little preparation gives a lot of peace of mind!

If you're temporarily stuck without formula and unable to get more, you can use one of these emergency recipes to safely feed your infant. These substitutes should not be used in the long term.

If you're temporarily stuck without formula and unable to get more, you can use one of these emergency recipes to safely feed your infant. These substitutes should not be used in the long term.

So, You've Run Out of Baby Formula . . .

Your child is crying because they are hungry. Perhaps you've always used formula, or perhaps breastfeeding went by the wayside after you started working again and had a nasty bout with mastitis. Whatever the case may be, as you stumble bleary-eyed into your kitchen to the bottle station, you realize that you have run out of formula. Panic strikes. You check the cupboard, the pantry, and even the fridge hoping that you have a stash somewhere . . . anywhere. No dice. So what do you do?

. . . What Can You Use as a Substitute?

Before the days of Similac and soy-based milk products, infants would drink raw cow or goat milk. Unfortunately, raw milk frequently carried diseases that led to diarrhea, vomiting, high fevers, and compromised immune systems. In the 1920s, industrialization and new preservation processes allowed a number of foods to be sanitized of bacteria and stored for future use. Milk could now be stored for long periods of time safely without refrigeration. Evaporated milk was born.

A Nutritional Comparison of Evaporated Milk and Whole Milk

A Nutritional Comparison of Evaporated Milk and Whole Milk

Evaporated milk is exactly what it sounds like—milk that has been heated to a level where its water content begins to evaporate. Containing only 60% of the water found in typical milk, evaporated milk is milk intensified. This evaporation process concentrates nutrition and fat. In fact, it has around double the caloric and nutritional content of its unprocessed counterpart—exactly what your little one needs to satiate their hunger without compromising their health.

Before you begin, keep in mind that the recipes in this article are for short-term emergency use only and will not provide sufficient nutrition for prolonged use. Use these recipes only when you cannot, for whatever reason, obtain professionally made and nutritionally complete baby formula.

Recipes in This Article

  1. Traditional Evaporated Milk Formula
  2. Dairy-Free Formula for Sensitive Stomachs

1. Evaporated Milk Baby Formula Substitute

This recipe is for traditional emergency formula (just like Grandma used to make). One standard-sized 13-ounce can of evaporated milk can make a full quart of emergency formula. The process is simple, fast, and—best of all—does not compromise your child's health.

As Dr. Andrew J. Schuman writes in his article, "A Concise History of Infant Formula," this is the exact recipe that was widely used in the 1950s and 1960s for infants who were not breastfed. Please remember, though, that this homemade formula is not a long-term solution since it lacks necessary vitamins. Parents in the 50s and 60s gave their infants supplemental vitamins and iron along with this formula, as noted by Dr. Schuman.

Supplies Needed

  • Clean quart container
  • 13 oz. can of evaporated whole milk (reduced fat, skim, and sweetened condensed milk will not provide enough calories or nutrition)
  • 18 to 19 oz. of water
  • 2 tablespoons of white granulated sugar or 1 tablespoon of light Karo syrup


  1. Combine the above ingredients into the quart container.
  2. Stir until the sugar or light syrup is fully dissolved. The added sugar will help your child break down the proteins in the evaporated milk.
  3. After serving your child, any remaining emergency formula should be refrigerated.
  4. Any unused formula should be discarded after three days.

Congratulations! You have saved the day (or night) and have something safe to feed your baby until you can go to the store and pick up commercial-grade formula.

2. Dairy-Free Emergency Formula for Sensitive Stomachs

Unfortunately, not all infants are able to process the lactose in the cow's milk that evaporated milk is derived from. For parents with babies who have sensitive stomachs, try this recipe as a dairy-free alternative.

Rice milk has long been used as a supplement for infants and has the added benefit of making your child feel full. It does not, however, contain all of the needed vitamins, proteins, and fats that specialized formulas provide to your child, and it should not be used as a primary source of nutrition.

Supplies Needed

  • 1 cup of cooked rice (can be any type of rice, but brown rice has more nutritional value)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of white granulated sugar
  • Blender


  1. Combine all ingredients into the blender.
  2. Blend until all ingredients are completely liquefied. It will take around 5 minutes for this process to be completed using a standard blender.
  3. After serving your child, any unused portions should be refrigerated.
  4. Discard all remaining formula after two days.

A Reminder About Safety

The evaporated and rice milk emergency formulas are not substitutes for commercial-grade formulas or breastmilk, as they do not include the additional vitamin supplements needed to ensure long-lasting health in your baby. If you need to use this formula for more than a few days in an emergency situation, please know that you will need to add vitamin drops. You should always consult your physician about your child's dietary needs when possible.

Additional Resources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Naomi on June 22, 2020:

Thank you! Such a life saver

J. G on June 07, 2020:

I used the carnation milk formula on all six of my children and tey were and still very healthy. Had good weight and are all still very healthy, used same on some of the grandchildren too.

b degonzague on April 06, 2020:

Thank you. With current covid19 concerns in the supply chain, there may very well be a shortage of commercial baby formula. This will be a lifesaver.

Kirstan on March 23, 2020:

Okay anyone who’s saying just BF .... I wanna day F U ! Because some of us can’t BF due to underlying diseases. I for one have a thyroid disease so I can’t BF due to it. Stop judging someone for how they feed their infant!!! Fed is the best option!!! POINT BLANK!!!

Liz on March 22, 2020:

This is a terrible idea. Please do not try this. Evaporated milk is not a suitable substitute at all.

Becky on March 20, 2020:

Thank you Teresa for sharing this recipe.

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on March 19, 2020:

I agree Becky.

I was unable to breastfeed after my first child was born, but I had no issues with my second.

Every child needs to be fed. If that is using a breast or bottle it doesn't matter.

Clearly if people are looking at this article it is because they are concerned about the health and well being of their child. That is the sign of a dedicated and concened parent, which is much more important to have than a shame over how your child can stay healthy.

This is a time full of stress, and if we can show love to one another we can get to the end of the tunnel together.

Becky on March 19, 2020:

************Unpopular opinion************** For those that are saying “just breastfeed your baby” please take into consideration that some of us CANNOT breastfeed due to health reasons, certain medications or just NOT being able to produce enough milk to properly feed the child and comments like “just breastfeed” stresses mothers out even more than what they probably are right now. Fed is best!

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on March 19, 2020:

Thank you Tina for restating that vitamin supplments are required in order for this to be a long term solution for your child.

Please ask your doctor which liquid vitamins you should be using.

You can see another comment of mine with a link to a PubMed article from 1999 explaining that at an 18 month review of infants fed on evaporated milk, many showed signs of vitamin deficiency.

Stay safe, stay healthy!

Tina Moore on March 19, 2020:

My husband received a complete blood transfusion at 4 months due what was called in the 60's milk anemia. His mom had him on cow's milk with honey alone. Milk does not have the iron an infant needs to make red blood cells Honey was also the number one cause of botulism in infants in the 1950's. Please be careful. RN nutritionist in Ky

Patricia Spindler on March 19, 2020:

All of my children were raised on the can milk formula and only one of them had colick, " Spiting up all the time, but 60 years ago we did not know about lactose problems." I raised them on Pet milk formula sent home by the hospital.

Mona Cosby on March 19, 2020:

I shared this a few day's ago an someone said this is not true. About the baby formula.

Shawn Warren on March 19, 2020:

How do you get freebies for babies

Shawn Warren on March 19, 2020:

Appreciate the formulas

Lois on March 18, 2020:

Carnation sure worked for us. I was so happy the hospital sent home with us some bott les of formula and instructions which happened to be carnation. I started out nursing but had to switch to formula. My babies did just fine on carnation!! All six of them.

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on March 17, 2020:

Honey carries a risk of poisioning your child with botulism if they are uner 12 months old.

Diane on March 17, 2020:

I gave my daughter evaporated milk but used karo syrup instead of sugar. I also gave her vitamin drops. She was a very healthy baby.

Vida Spinney on March 17, 2020:

Both of my children were raised on the can milk formula and given infant vitamins. They grew up with no ill effects.

susan lynn on March 17, 2020:

i used it and gave my child vitamin drops daily and used karo syrup instead of sugar

Brittney on March 17, 2020:

What about us foster moms Carla? Not everyone has the luxury of breast feeding.

Thank you so much for sharing this for us!

David Brooks on March 17, 2020:

I would like to SHARE this with the public, but can not. Could you fix that?

Carla Day on March 16, 2020:

If you just breastfeed your baby you wouldn't have to worry about running out of milk.

Nadine Humphrey on March 16, 2020:

When I was born Evaporated Milk formula was what I was fed. No Store bought around. I am now 68 years old and in great health so I think I got a good start in life.

Carol Miracle on March 16, 2020:

I raised all 3 of my children on this formular. My last child would throw up Similac as soon as it hit his stomach and stunk. I threw away about $75 of Similac when i brought him home. The only thing is you need to get vitamins over the counter.

Amie on March 16, 2020:

I'm wondering if molasses would work. It has some vitamins and nutrients.

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on March 16, 2020:

I have not really reviewed this recently. I wrote this almost 8 years ago.

It looks like my WHO link is broken verifying the safety of this emergency formula. I went in search of other medical resources to provide some reassurance that this is a safe way to feed your child.

This medical journal from 1957 indicatates that evaporated milk can be used as a substitute formula.

Here is a PubMed abstract from 1999 that compares infants who were fed evaporated milk to others 18 months later. They find that Evaporated Milk drinking infants are lacking iron and other impoetant nutrients - which is why this CANNOT be used as a long term solution.

Thank you and please remember to ALWAYS verify with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Stay safe, and stay healthy.

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on March 16, 2020:

Yes - White Karo Syrup can be used also.

Frances Sturgess on March 16, 2020:

breastmilk has about 180 calories per cup and 3 grams of protein

the evap milk diluted as directed has about 150 cals and 8 grams of harder to digest protein and half the carbs

the rice beverage has about 50 calories and no protein to speak of..Its ok to prevent dehydration but not much else.

Carolyn Patton on March 16, 2020:

We substituted whit Karo Syrup for the sugar

Judy on March 16, 2020:

While these are all good probably-carnation condensed milk formula hound be used with 2 T of karo-because this formula can be constipating-better than sugar-preferred.sweetened condensed is not the best for babies.

etta mae mariotti on March 16, 2020:


Elizabeth on March 16, 2020:

I used this too but NO sugar. Can milk has sort of sweetnest taste.

Rma on March 16, 2020:

This is what I was raised on! Maybe that is where I got my sweet tooth from. Nothing is wrong with me.

Sherry on March 16, 2020:

My mom fed this too all her children. We were very healthy. So..people you need to keep in mind..we have ALOT to learn by how our parents and grandparents survived. After all, my brothers and i ate honey, peanut butter, and were never seatbelted..and i wont even go on about some of the other unsavory things we might once have done..BUT..we lived, as did our parents, grands and greats. Be smart, and learn to trust your instincts. Oroblem with this world is, People have been dumbed down. So, smarten up, and think of what we have tossed aside for this throw away world.. Peace out..

Liz on September 25, 2019:

@ncoker no, don’t ever give a baby honey!

Jessica on December 08, 2018:

Hi I only have a 12 oz of evaporated milk will the recipe change or do I still add the same amount of sugar and water?

Maddie on June 25, 2018:

I believe that being fed a baby formula of Condensed milk and Karo Syrup created a lifelong addiction to sugar in me. My siblings also.

Any thoughts?

Dawn on June 14, 2018:

Thank you so much for this i never new this i live with my babys dad now and i dont have my mom around me to tell me things you know but this is a big help. Thank you so much

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on November 21, 2014:

It is not recommend honey be given to children under the age of one due to the risk of botulism.

ncoker on November 21, 2014:

Can you substitute the sugar for honey? I've just been told honey is a healthier alternative to sugar.

Teresa Gabbiani (author) from Southwest United States on November 26, 2012:

I'm glad that both of you were able to use this type of formula for your children! I think that in today's world, some of this knowledge has been lost so it is important to share what we know with others.

n carter on November 22, 2012:

Back 37 yrs ago, no one even suggested I try breast feeding. My doctor gave me a formula of evaporated milk and Karo syrup. My son thrived on it.

D.B. Morris on November 22, 2012:

this is the formula we gave my daughter as she was having problems with all processed formulas. The only difference was that we used dark Karo syrup (which we now know is a no no for sure!) she thrived on it!

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