Emergency Baby Formula Recipe
It's 3 AM
Your baby is crying. Breastfeeding went by the wayside after you started working again, and you had that nasty bout with mastitis. As you stumble bleary-eyed into your kitchen to the bottle station, you realize 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. What do you do?
Before the days of Similac and soy-based milk products, infants would drink raw cow's or goat's 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 been heated to a level where the water content begins to evaporate. Containing only 60% of the water content found in typical milk, evaporated milk is milk intensified. This evaporation process concentrates the nutrition of regular milk and ensures a higher milk-fat ratio. In fact, it has around double the caloric and nutritional content—exactly what your little one needs to satiate their hunger while not compromising their heath.
Emergency Baby Formula Recipe (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: This homemade formula is not a long-term solution, since it lacks needed vitamins. Parents in the '50s and '60s gave their infants supplemental vitamins and iron along with this formula, per Dr. Schuman.
What You Need
- A clean quart container
- 13 oz. evaporated whole milk (reduced fat, skim, or sweetened condensed milk will not provide your baby enough of the calories or nutrition he needs).
- 18 to 19 oz. water
- 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar or 1 tablespoon of Light Karo Syrup
- Combine the above ingredients into the quart container, and 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, with any unused portion being discarded after three days.
Congratulations! You have saved the day (night) and have something safe to feed your baby until you can go to the store and get a 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.
Emergency Baby Formula Recipe for Sensitive Stomachs
Unfortunately, not all babies are able to process the lactose in cow's milk that evaporated milk is derived from. For parents with babies with a sensitive stomach, try this as your emergency alternate.
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 contain all of the needed vitamins, proteins, and fat specialized formulas provide to your child, and it should not be used as a primary source of nutrition.
What You Need
- 1 cup cooked rice (can be any type of rice, but brown rice has more nutritional value)
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
- Combine all ingredients into the blender and blend until all ingredients are completely liquefied. A standard blender will take around 5 minutes for this process to complete.
- After serving to your child, refrigerate any unused portion and discard after two days.
The evaporated milk formula and rice milk are not a substitute for commercial-grade formulas or breastmilk, as they do not include additional vitamin supplements needed to ensure long-lasting health in your baby. If you need to use this formula for longer than a few days, please know your baby will require vitamin drops be added. You should always consult your physician about your child's dietary needs.
- Eighteen-month Follow-Up of Infants Fed Evaporated Milk Formula: This 1999 study found that infants fed exclusively evaporated milk formula lacked needed 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 hypoallergenic formulas. Your pediatrician should always be consulted when you're choosing a formula for your child.
Consult Your Physician
You should always consult your physician about your child's dietary needs.
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.