Homemade Emergency Baby Formula Recipe
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.
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
- Traditional Evaporated Milk Formula
- 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.
- 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
- Combine the above ingredients into the quart container.
- 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.
- After serving your child, any remaining emergency formula should be refrigerated.
- 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.
Warning: Never Use Honey
Do not use honey in place of the sugar or syrup for infants under 12 months old. The risk of botulism is too high.
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.
- 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
- Combine all ingredients into the blender.
- Blend until all ingredients are completely liquefied. It will take around 5 minutes for this process to be completed using a standard blender.
- After serving your child, any unused portions should be refrigerated.
- 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.
- Eighteen-Month Follow-Up of Infants Fed Evaporated Milk Formula: This 1999 study found that infants fed exclusively on evaporated milk formula lacked necessary vitamins.
- Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend homemade baby formula. Remember, these recipes are only intended for short-term emergencies.
- Infant Nutrition and Feeding: This is the USDA's guide to infant nutrition.
- Choosing an Infant Formula: This AAP article discusses the different types of infant formulas, such as normal and hypoallergenic. Your pediatrician should always be consulted when choosing a formula for your child.
Consult Your Physician
You should always consult your physician about your child's dietary needs. The recipes in this article are for temporary emergencies only and are not intended for long-term use.
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.