What to Give Your Baby if You Run Out of Formula in an Emergency

Infographic showing a flow chart of formula alternatives.

Emergency Formula Alternatives

This post is intended to guide choices in a food shortage emergency. If you are out of formula, call your doctor, clinic, hospital, or breast milk bank. They may have a supply they can share. Do not purchase formula or breast milk on the black market.

Lastly, every country sets its own guidelines. The goal in any emergency is to keep babies hydrated.

0 – 6 Months: Breast milk and/or formula should be the main source of nutrition. If none is available, contact your pediatrician right away. Do not give water. Do not dilute breast milk or formula with water or any other liquid. Oral rehydration solution is okay for a 2 day period of time. In an emergency, you may supplement with puréed food after baby is 4 mos old.

6 – 9 Months: Breast milk and/or formula should be the main source of nutrition. At this age, your baby should be eating solid food too. If breast milk/formula is unavailable, contact your pediatrician right away. Do not give water. Do not dilute breast milk or formula with water or any other liquid. Oral rehydration solution is okay for a 2 day period of time. Focus on nutritionally dense solids such as whole fat yogurt, avocado, mashed beans/lentils, oatmeal, low sodium cheese, and meat.

9 – 12 Months: Breast milk and/or formula should be the main source of nutrition with an increasing focus on solids. If breast milk/formula is unavailable, contact your pediatrician right away. Sips of water are ok (< 2-4oz/day). Do not dilute breast milk or formula with water or any other liquid. Oral rehydration solution is acceptable for a 3-day period of time. Focus on nutritionally dense solids such as whole fat yogurt, avocado, mashed beans/lentils, oatmeal, low sodium cheese, and meat. In dire situations, you may offer pasteurized cow, sheep, or goat milk (full fat) and alternative milks (pea protein or soy are best) for 2-3 days as long as these are not the primary source of nutrition.

12 – 24 Months: If your baby is eating solids, you do not need to offer formula anymore. At this age, milk is primarily for fat, calcium and vitamin D so if you are unable to get milk, focus on foods rich in these nutrients (yogurt and cheese) and offer any of these milks: cow, sheep or goat (full or 2% fat); plant based milks (pea protein, soy, etc.); formulas for toddlers such as Kate Farms, Boost Kids Essentials, or Pediasure. At 12 months, water should be a part of your baby’s diet and is unrestricted at this age if your baby is consuming most of their calories via solid food. Oral rehydration solution is acceptable for a few days, especially if your baby is sick. 

Reviewed by Rachel Ruiz, MD.

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