DIY baby formula

“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

What Is Evaporated 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 the 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)
  • 18–19 oz. of water
  • 2 tablespoons of white granulated sugar or 1 tablespoon of light Karo syrup”

Comment: There are lots of recipes for DIY formula on the net. My mother had a baby in occupied Germany where formula was often not available even to occupation personnel. She and the German help created a small factory for the stuff. Get busy ladies! pl

Homemade Emergency Baby Formula Recipe – WeHaveKids

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41 Responses to DIY baby formula

  1. Jose says:

    Unfortunately, things are more complicated in todays America:

    Better alternative is to breast feed….

    BTW, I was raised on your recipe.

    • Degringolade says:

      I think everyone over the age of 60 was raised on this formula.

      • Pat Lang says:

        I remember my mother teaching the German cook and other help to make the stuff. They started a side business of their own making formula for German kids. My mother hated Germans but she helped them with this.

    • Cia says:

      Mothers only have the option to breast feed for a few days after birth. Use it or lose it. If they don’t, the milk dries up and it would be difficult or impossible to get it going again. I breastfed mine from the beginning until self-weaning. It was very painful for the first two months. I’m glad I did it, though.

      My mother gave my brother and me the evaporated milk formula and I later watched my aunt make it. I sometimes gave it to my cousins in glass bottles. They loved it, no problems, and grew strong and healthy.

      I don’t know why so many are saying it’s dangerous and to NOT use it to feed hungry babies during this formula crisis. It is an EXCELLENT second choice to formula. The evaporated milk in a can is sterile, it’s curds have been altered in the preparation process to be tasty, digestible, and less allergenic than untreated milk. The sugar added replaces the sugar lactose in mothers milk. It helps digest the protein in the milk and helps bowel function. The evaporated milk is diluted in the correct proportions to approximate mothers milk.

      Yes, at the appropriate age and weight if you’re using it for more than a few days you need to add the correct dose of infant vitamins and iron. You need to follow hygiene rules, wash hands, sterilize bottles and nipples, boil the water needed for ten minutes and cool, fill bottles and put extras in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

      Of course it’s terrible that the authorities have allowed this to happen, but when there’s no formula on the store shelf, there’s probably evaporated milk and Karo. And the baby will be happy and nourished.

      • TTG says:


        Given that the US has a massive overproduction of dairy, I would think a greater portion of that overproduction could be diverted to evaporated milk rather than government cheese. The evaporated milk could even contain the necessary vitamins, minerals and sugars to make it a complete baby formula. I’m sure Abbott and the other giants of industry would fight it, but this might make at least a dent in our milk overproduction.

  2. Deap says:

    Aunt who was a nurse gave her kids molasses water in a bottle -which would supply iron.

    Locally, there are emerging reports of “infant botulism” linked to giving infants under the age of one year honey -so don’t sweeten anything with honey. Some how the human race evolved without the use of any commercial infant formulas.

    But who knows, maybe the purveyor of a proprietary “infant botulism” cure, is enjoying this sudden supply chain scarcity immensely knowing how many “green mothers” want to raise “green babies” serving them only “natural foods” – in walks honey and rash of infant botulism.

    Friend who was a pediatrician complained about getting caught in the Similac vs Infanmil pharmaceutical rep cross fire at every professional medical meeting – usually sponsored by one or the other, or both. He waved the white flag and pleased neutrality.

    • Kilo 4/11 says:

      All honey products we’ve bought have had a warning not to give it to children under 2 years old.

  3. TTG says:

    I remember my parents using evaporated milk based formula for my brothers and sisters. I have no idea how I was fed. I also don’t know what else was in it. I do know the bottles and formula were sterilized just like it was being canned. I can see warnings against home recipes being based on unsterilized conditions. How many young mothers are familiar with home canning?

    • KareBear says:

      Sterilizing is super simple. You need a large pot, clean water and a lid and a clock or timer.

    • Dolores O´Neil says:

      “I have no idea how I was fed”..

      Well, apart from the milk, you were fed hatred of Russians, obviously…

  4. Deap says:

    My old college nutrition textbook (1966) sets out requirements for early infant feeding – including a new born baby’s stomach holds about two tablespoons of food, so the average number of feedings range between 5-8 per day.

    The book also supports the use of the whole cow’s milk, dried milk or evaporated milk base provides sufficient mineral salts, except as noted for iron – which takes us back to the molasses-water supplementation.

    Plus if the mothers gestation nutrition was adequate, the new born has about three months of iron storage already built up. Sugars often as corn syrup are added for calorie content. Vitamin C can be obtained though tomato or orange juice. Cod liver oil is recommended to be mixed with the orange juice after two weeks. Vitamin B6 is essential, along with other Vitamin B requirements long term.

    In 1966, it was assumed the nurse would teach the new mother how to prepare her own infant formula before leaving the hospital, including proper sterilization techniques.

    So it appears we have another “crisis” that is not really a crisis when only few decades ago, homemade infant formula and new parent education was the rule of the day.

  5. JK/AR says:


    Before administering any the above “recipes” for formula shouldn’t a human baby at minimum be placed (and strapped in) to a car-seat or a similarly protective device?

  6. MapleLeaf says:

    An argument was made on NakedCapitalism a few days ago that the real reason for the shortage is that little investment was made in these plants, and they started creating health concerns.

    At the same time, these companies did share buybacks.

    I think the practice of a share buyback should be prevented. Any surplus should be paid out in dividends or else reinvested in companies as a going concern.

    • TTG says:


      There are several reasons besides those. One was a contamination problem at a major manufacturing plant for several brands. It caused several infant deaths. Another is extreme supply/demand fluctuations through and after the Covid pandemic mainly due to a wildly fluctuating birth rate, I think. This is also one market where “buy America” bit us in the ass.

    • Deap says:

      Share buy-back is a way of financing internal investments. Buy back your own stock when it is low, which becomes is money in the bank when you sell it later and re-invest those capital gains in your own country. Saves long-term borrowing costs.

      A good business book to read is “The Outliers” – a survey of CEO’s who kept a low profiles, were found to have gone against the the popular grain, but consistently delivered sound business decisions and profitability’s. Those CEO made a strong case for share buy-backs, along with many other similar business policy decisions. Though none in concerns with each other – just an independent study of best practices.

      • MapleLeaf says:

        Thanks for the book suggestion. The arguments I’ve heard against buybacks are that they are often tailored to yield short term returns at the cost of long term ones. Thus, companies sometimes borrow to finance buybacks rather than invest in productive equipment (or their employees). It was implied that Abbott hadn’t taken that approach, but they may have done so as well.

        Fred may be right, and the form of dividends may not be much of an improvement. At the end of the day, the main stated* objective of any CEO is to maximize shareholder value. But what are the time horizons of those particular shareholders they benefit most? With the Fed-games being played over the last twenty years, too many people have come to expect very high returns, very quickly.

        The average CEO tenure these days is around 5 years, value-engineering has reached the corporate heights. It isn’t surprising that longer serving CEOs actually are better performing (which isn’t a given since most CEOs are dismissed for ethical reasons not business outcomes), in part because they are more apt to take a long-term view on corporate investments.

        My personal opinion is that financialization has been carried out to the extreme, and when the music stops this time, it is going to be one hell of a fall.

        *I use “stated” here because agent/principal problems appear here as in any other relationship of the sort…

    • Fred says:


      How dare they! spend shareholder money that way. Paying a dividend instead would have done what, exactly to industrial plant and equipment investment by those firms? What prevents the concerned bloggers @ NakedCapitalism from banding together and starting their own baby formula factory?


      Which particular plant are you refering too? In at least one case well publicized online a plant has been closed for months even though there was zero evidence of it being the source of any contamination? “Covid pandemic” due to ‘fluctuting birthrates”. Is that meant as a joke? The ‘supply’ disruptions by reduced factory operations in the US in this case were by government interference in business operations.

      • TTG says:


        “The shortage comes after Abbott Nutrition, the nation’s largest baby formula manufacturer, closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, amid a recall due to contamination concerns. Four infants who consumed products from the plant were hospitalized with bacterial infections. Two of the infants died.”

        Abbott, not the FDA, issued the voluntary recall in February because of the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii contamination at that one plant. The FDA advised consumers not to use recalled formulas. The bacteria was found at the plant, but Abbott claimed it wasn’t in the formula. Abbott still shut the plant down.

        Our birthrate dropped during the pandemic. Panic buying of formula early in the pandemic led to less purchasing due to use of hoarded supplies. Now the hoarded supplies are gone and the birthrate returned closer to normal. It all effected supply/demand.

        • Fred says:


          recalls happen often; the reports I read were that this plant was not only cleaned up but was not the source of the problem either and that the FDA has forbidden them to restart operations there.

    • JK/AR says:

      Too MapleLeaf as these products coming from plants (particularly soy) have been long known to have “hormonal issues” I for one would hope all considering such a “solution” educate themselves:

      (Yes fellows I realize me – given my history here of some unkindness toward NIH pubs – directing y’all thataways may seem peculiar.)

  7. Degringolade says:

    Mostly I believe that this is an example of what was once a convenience is now a necessaity.

    Unlike a lot of folks here, I am anticipating a reversion to mean in the none too distant future. The improvements(?) to lifestyle(dear God I hate that word) are probably going to give way to reality, lower wages, and a struggling supply chain.

    It’s gonna be a ride.

  8. Deap says:

    Moms used to wash out diapers too; instead of overwhelming the land fill with disposable non-cloth diapers. So much for green moms and green babies today – manufactured formula and disposable diapers. People in fact seem very reluctant to live green lives; only act like they want green lives or even better make you live a green life.

  9. Philip Owen says:

    There was a farm over the road. Once I was big enough not to need formula I used to be sent over the road to fetch the milk. It was still warm from the cows. That’s what my mother used plus cod liver oil and some iron supplement or other.

  10. jim ticehurst says:

    Mom….A Memory of Mine…

    City Life…Where the Forests were Tall Wooden Structures
    With Windows..Like Bee Hives…Busy..
    But Homes To Human Hearts..And Chatty Children..
    And Memorys of Sunday Family Dinners…Familiar Faces..
    And Papas Heart Felt Graces..

    No One Cooked Better than Momma…With Love..
    Mama…Who Took Us on Walks..Who Dried Our Tears..
    On Pretty Aprons..Worn Beautifully…Dawn to Dark..
    Who Always Kissed Our Heads..Tucked us in Beds…
    And Whose Gentle…Comforting Hugs..Hung onto Us…
    Long After She Walked Away…But The Memorys Stay..

    • Leith says:


      • jim ticehurst says:

        Thank you Leith..I Appreciate that..I have Not Published much of my prose..or poetry..Im glad you liked it..

    • Bill Roche says:

      Yeah, I remember momma. I close buddy of mine (friends since ’60, said “Billy, your still stuck somewhere in 1959”. “Glady” said I. I was 13 that year. There’s been lots of improvements since, in things, inventions, and knowledge. And there’s been lots of losses in patriotism, humility, and honor. Speaking of honor, I’m finishing up Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage”. We are no longer who we were.

  11. Sam says:

    The baby formula shortage reveals an amazing secret oligopoly:
    – 3 American companies control over 90% of the mkt
    – hugely restrictive regulations (thanks to big $ lobbying) prohibit foreign formulas

    Name another industry/sector/product like this

    This is part and parcel of the consolidation of market across numerous market segments and consequently political power. The revolving door in government and the symbiotic relationship of our duopoly has strengthened the oligarchs.

    • Bill Roche says:

      Sam, public media?

    • Mishkilji says:

      We live in another Guilded Age dominated by monoplies.

      Progressives in the Republican Party fought this.

      I don’t see that happening again.

    • KareBear says:

      The WIC program, another ingenious plan of the Left to feed the needy, has given contracts to the largest producers supplying most of the formulas. There is always a money trail, usually obscured, that will eventually lead to gigantic campaign coffers to aid in electing more of the Left and it perpetuates right under our noses. You can just couple all of the schemes of the dummies, the pallets of formula sitting on shelves at the detention centers on the border, the huge government contracts, the plan to gain more power by manipulating food supply. “When you can control the food supply, you can control the people.”

    • glupi says:

      When oligarchs become the government – “The Gravy Planet” by Kornbluth, but only the original in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine (found through External links of The Space Merchants wikipedia entry).

      It’s up there with Orwell’s 1984

  12. Leith says:

    Speaking of babies, looks like Walrus’s countrymen may have found the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:

    • walrus says:

      Hopefully it works. Lets see if it can be replicated in the U.S.

    • Kilo 4/11 says:

      Brings back a memory of when I lived in a share house in North Sydney. The house was awakened one night by the wails of a young mother who had just discovered her baby dead. I will never forget the agony in her voice. That a remedy comes from Australia is for me one of those poetic moments when history rhymes.

      • Researcher says:

        That entire story and that research is completely, 100% bogus. If there is any inhibition at all of any enzyme, you can be guaranteed it’s from the pathogenic injectables that are given to children at hospitals and paediatrician’s offices.

        “Of 2605 infant deaths reported to VAERS from 1990 through 2019, 58 % clustered within 3 days post-vaccination and 78.3 % occurred within 7 days post-vaccination, confirming that infant deaths tend to occur in temporal proximity to vaccine administration.”

        The above quote is from a peer reviewed published, 2021 research paper. Anyone who has truly studied the data around the various toxic “injectables” and isn’t a PhRMA shill, knows the truth. And the truth won’t ever be found in the mainstream media or a Reuter’s narrative.

        There’s no such thing as a coincidence.

  13. walrus says:

    San is right, its called regulatory capture. The FDA and Congress made it very difficul for new entrants into the formula market while being exra lenient on the three established players. You are/were paying double what Europeans pay and the quality you got was still *&*&.

    This merely one example of the broken American “free market economy” and the stupidity of the average American for putting up with it.

    My favourite example is the Louisiana Floristry licence.

  14. Deap says:

    CDC to the rescue again – spreading threats of fear, uncertainly and death, which comes as a huge surprise to all of us who probably did get home made baby formula when we were growing up:

    CDC: ……”Parents and caregivers are advised to NOT dilute formula or use homemade recipes for substitution as this can seriously harm a baby’s health……..”

    (Emphasis not added – CDC wants to make sure you only use their approved commercial kickback products and get a strong dose of their brand of baby FUD*.)

    *FUD – a left over covid meme – Fear Uncertainty Death

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