Money is tight and you’re low on baby formula. Should you try that homemade formula recipe you saw online?
The answer is: No.
The advice is solid here, no questioning that. Homemade formula isn’t a great idea.
However, this article overestimates the help available for parents who may feel it’s necessary to water down formula or go to a homemade variety. If parents are going down that route, it’s most likely because the solutions in place haven’t worked out fully.
When I first read the article, I assumed the homemade baby formula in question was my Grandma’s recipe she handed to me when I became a first time mom almost thirty years ago. It has 3 ingredients: evaporated milk,water,karo syrup.
I looked at the most popular homemade recipes for formula out there and quickly learned that these are not my Grandma’s basic recipes and if those are the ones the author is referring to, I don’t think she has to worry about a parent without money making any of them. The ingredients are expensive (there are also “kits” that run about $180-$200…definitely not within low income budgets). I’m inclined to think those who are making these “natural” formulas are doing so not for penny pinching reasons. They’re probably just anti-formula but aren’t breastfeeding or want to supplement.
That out of the way, let’s focus on suggestions given to parents with the assumption they’re making formula to save money (or because they have no money).
The article suggests that if you can’t afford formula, apply for WIC, SNAP, and TANF.
WIC usually does provide enough formula for babies but some families may find times in their baby’s development where they’re going through more formula than WIC provides. Some states have also made cuts to WIC and may not be providing the same as they were.
While WIC income eligibility guidelines are usually higher than SNAP, recipients are still low income and are likely dealing with the multitude of issues that plague low income folks. Missing a WIC appointment can be disastrous. When we’re talking about a low income parent missing an appointment the reason isn’t easily explained away as “irresponsibility”. Can’t get off work, car broke down,can’t find a ride, no public transportation… not excuses, valid obstacles. In rural areas, rescheduling an appointment may not be a possibility at all. Your WIC clinic is one certain day per month in the basement of a church and if you miss that day, there’s nothing else you can do but wait until next month. Even a weather cancellation could totally screw up a family getting their WIC checks on time.
SNAP? Of course it helps but the average allotment of $3 per day per person isn’t going to get everyone in the family the food they need PLUS formula for a whole month. And TANF is notoriously hard to get approved for. Benefits are low and only temporary. You may even be asked to pay back the amount.
The article also recommends food pantries and yes, of course some will be able to help but small town and rural pantries won’t be able to fill that need always.
Where To Get Formula If WIC & SNAP Doesn’t Meet Your Baby’s Needs
Call Your Pediatrician
Your pediatrician has sample cans on hand that they can give to families in need and should supply you with what your baby needs to make it through to your next payday, WIC check pickup, or SNAP disbursement. They may also be able to refer you to additional community organizations who are specialized in helping low income families with things like formula and diapers.
You may also want to give your local health department a call. They are likely to know of other avenues available.
NOTE: I’m aware that some folks may feel afraid to ask their pediatrician for fear of having child protective services called. Yes, use your best judgement about this and only if you feel safe with your provider.
Check Out Your Local Gift Economy Scene
This one may be tricky. You have to find it first, if it even exists. The idea of a gift economy is simply that if you need something, you ask and if you have something to give, you offer it up. No cash exchanged.
Your gift economy may exist on something like Freecycle or even in the community section of craigslist but more often, you’ll see some thriving local groups on Facebook. They may not be labeled “gift economy”. They may be something like “Moms Helping Moms” or something just as simple as “Free Exchange”.
Local parenting groups with an online group are an important resource and I encourage people to join them, even though they certainly can be a minefield of drama at times if they’re not well moderated.
Pregnancy Centers,Community Centers,Churches
You can use 211.org to find a lot of these resources but from my own experience, the list they have may not be complete or it’s outdated. I find that Catholic Charities is usually very helpful (experience may vary on location) and the pregnancy centers that have no religious affiliation are usually the most comfortable to seek help at.
Even if a church doesn’t have a food pantry serving the community, they may still be able to help.
Also recognizing here that asking churches may not be for everyone.