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I Ran Out Of Baby Formula What Can I Use?

Your baby is crying, it’s 2 am and they are ready for their night feed. You run downstairs to make up their bottle, only to discover you have run out of formula.

What do you do next? Running out of formula milk can be a stressful situation to be in, especially if it is at a time when you are not able to go to the store to buy more. 

I ran out of baby formula what can I use?  You may be tempted to offer your baby a bottle of cow’s milk or water but this is not always a safe alternative to formula.

In this article, we discuss your options on what to do if you have run out of formula and what you can use in an emergency to substitute for baby formula.

Emergency Baby Formula Substitute – What Can I Give My Baby Besides Formula?

If you have run out of baby formula, try not to beat yourself up, it happens to the best of us.

However, it is important that you don’t just rush to the refrigerator and fill up a bottle with cow’s milk or dairy-free milk like soy or almond milk. Water is harmless, right? Well, no. When given to babies, water can actually be dangerous and even fatal when given too often. 

Related Reading: 5 Uses for Expired Baby Formula

What do you do if you have run out of formula then? You do have a few options if you have no formula and can’t go and buy more, what you offer your baby as an alternative will depend on their age.

Here is a breakdown of the formula alternatives you can give to babies between the ages of 0 months and 1 year.

0 – 6 months

Babies under 6 months should not be offered water or any other drink as an alternative to formula milk. However, if you are able to, offer your baby breastmilk instead of formula.

Check your freezer. Do you have any stored expressed breastmilk that you can offer to your baby? Are you in the early stages of weaning onto formula? Perhaps you could try pumping some milk now, just to tie you over until you can get some more formula from the store. 

If breastmilk is not an option, your main concern right now is keeping your child hydrated but to do so safely. Your baby will not starve if they miss a couple of bottles of formula.

They will be hungry and more upset than usual but nothing bad is going to happen in the long term.

However, babies can become poorly quickly if they become dehydrated. If you are in an emergency situation with no formula for your baby to drink, pediatricians recommend giving your baby Pedialyte.

Pedialyte is an oral rehydration solution containing water, electrolytes, sugar, and minerals.

You should not use Pedialyte for more than 48 hours. This should give you more than enough time to replenish your formula supply. Stock up on Pedialyte to give yourself some peace of mind.

As long as you have Pedialyte in the kitchen cupboard then you will be able to safely keep your baby hydrated if you run out of formula. 

Although it is recommended you wait until your baby is 6 months old before offering them solid food. You can give babies pureed baby food from 4 months old.

In an emergency situation, if your 4-month-old is really hungry, you can offer them some puree along with the Pedialyte. Solid food should not be offered at all to babies under 4 months of age and most 4-month-olds are not yet ready for weaning. 

6 – 9 months

When your baby reaches this age they will be starting to wean and be getting used to eating solid food. In this early stage of weaning, whatever food your baby eats will be supplemented by their formula so it is still important you get some more formula as soon as possible.

However, if you have run out of formula you can feed your baby some solid food and it is safe to now offer them 4- 8oz of water a day too.

Again, this feeding method should not be used for more than 2 days, you will need to buy some more formula as soon as you can as babies of this age still get most of their nutrition from their milk.

Pedialyte can also be used for babies between 6 and 9 months to keep them hydrated safely.

9 – 12 months

By this age, running out of formula isn’t as much of a big deal as it is when your baby is a newborn. The older your baby is the more options you have on what you can feed them and give them to drink if you have no formula available.

By this age, many babies have dropped their formula feeds and maybe only having two or three bottles within 24hours.

While it is still advised not to offer cow’s milk as a drink until your baby is one year old, you can give your 9-12month old 8oz of water to drink. You are also able to offer your baby coconut water with their meals to keep them hydrated and you can use Pedialyte if you need to. 

At this age, it is a lot easier to satisfy your baby’s hunger with a variety of different solid foods and it is easier to keep them hydrated too.

However, formula-fed babies should continue to drink formula until they are one year old to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need so be sure to buy some more as soon as possible.

Baby drinking water

Why Can’t I Give My Baby Water To Drink?

Considering drinking water is so important to maintaining good health throughout childhood and for us adults, why is it so dangerous for babies to drink water?

As your baby’s kidneys are still developing, they are unable to process large amounts of water. Regularly giving your baby water to drink can cause water intoxication, this can make your baby seriously ill and can be fatal. 

Some parents water down their baby formula to make it stretch. This is a bad idea and is not advised as it can result in your baby consuming an unsafe amount of water.

When you water down the formula you risk watering down your baby’s bloodstream too. A diluted bloodstream will not have the correct concentration of important electrolytes and may lead to your baby developing hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia can cause your baby’s brain to swell, can lead to seizures, and in serious cases, it can be fatal. 

Whenever you are tempted to offer your young baby a bottle of water or are considering watering their formula down to make the powder last longer, remember that too much water can make your baby seriously ill. Reach for the Pedialyte or phone a friend to pop to the store for you instead.

Can You Make Homemade Formula?

You have run out of formula and you have no Pedialyte and you’re tempted to make some homemade formula. All we can tell you is that this is not a good idea.

There may be recipes for homemade formula circulating online but the only drinks you should be giving to your baby under 6 months are breastmilk, infant formula, or Pedialyte in an emergency.

It can be tempting to mix up some ingredients you have at home to make a formula alternative but this is dangerous and will put your baby at risk. 

What To Do If You Can’t Afford Baby Formula

If you have run out of formula and you can’t afford to buy more, you do have some options. Your baby is not going to go hungry and without formula for long. Here is a list of places you can call for help if you are unable to buy more formula for your baby. 

Breastmilk donor bank

Many areas have breast milk banks where you can get donor breast milk. If your baby has had breast milk before, you may be able to get them some donor breast milk from a milk bank in an emergency. 

Call your OB/GYN, doctor, or pediatric clinic

In an emergency, you can call around your local hospital pediatric units or get in touch with your doctor or children’s clinic to see if they have any formula they can give to you.

Pediatric clinics and units in hospitals will always have baby formula available and your OB/GYN is likely to have formula samples too.

This is not a permanent solution if you can not afford baby formula but if you contact them in an emergency situation they will try their best to help you get the formula for your baby. 


If you cannot afford baby formula you may be eligible for help via the Federal WIC Program. The WIC ensures that all babies’ formula needs are met and should be able to help you in the long term if you are unable to afford formula for your baby. 

The Final Thought

If you have run out of baby formula try not to panic, you have options. It is really important you buy some more formula as soon as possible. But, in the meantime, there are some alternatives to the formula that you can offer your baby to keep them safely hydrated.

This article has highlighted the safe formula substitutes for babies between 0 months and 1 year, we hope you now feel better prepared and know what to do if you run out of formula again. 

Finally, if you are struggling to afford formula milk, remember it is not safe to water powdered formula down.

There are people who can help you and we hope this article has helped you to know where to reach out for help if you are in an emergency situation and can’t afford to buy any formula.