How should we feed our baby when we’re running low on money?

Some formula companies have patient assistance programs that your pediatrician can help you find.

  • Wednesday, June 23, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Q: How should we feed our baby when we’re running low on money?

A: Lost jobs and business during the COVID-19 outbreak have left many families struggling to pay for groceries, including infant formula.

Food pantries and public support programs such as WIC and SNAP are available, but they may not cover everything a family needs to stay healthy. Also, families who find themselves suddenly in need may not qualify for some of these public support programs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly believes that good nutrition is essential for a healthy future for infants and small children. Putting their needs first is critical, and there are ways to make this more affordable.

If your child is younger than 12 months of age, ask your pediatrician’s office if it can urgently get you a small supply from the local formula representatives or a local charity. Some formula companies have patient assistance programs that your pediatrician can help you find. Your local WIC office may also be able to help.

If possible, buy formula online or in the largest sizes available at retail stores, and watch for sales. Remember to only buy formula from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies. Avoid formula sold by individuals or on auction sites.

For most babies, it is OK to switch between different milk-based formulas, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific, highly hydrolyzed one, such as Alimentum or Nutramigen. If you are unsure, talk with your pediatrician.

Never water down formula! Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous and can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems.

You may be tempted to buy cheaper dairy alternatives, but whole cow’s milk and dairy alternatives are not recommended for infants under 12 months of age. It is best to stick to breast milk and/or infant formula throughout your baby’s first year, except in a brief emergency. Food banks, local WIC offices and other community resources are usually able to help in a food emergency. Keep in mind that eligibility for public support programs like WIC and SNAP may change, so stay in contact with these agencies to make sure you can participate.

Toddler formulas are not necessary for infants over 12 months. Cow’s milk or fortified soy milk products are less expensive than formula, meet a toddler’s need for milk products, and provide adequate minerals and protein.

You also may want to make your own food for your baby to save money. The AAP strongly advises against homemade formula, however. Although recipes for homemade formulas circulating on the internet may seem healthy and less expensive, they may not be safe and do not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

You can make your own baby food when you start your baby on solids, at about 6 months of age. There is no need to rely upon premade baby food that often is more expensive. If you make your own baby food, be sure to include enough protein and iron, two key nutrients for your child’s growth. Most beans are high in protein and are cheaper than many other protein sources. Dark green leafy vegetables are a great source of iron.

It’s good to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your baby’s diet, and you will find that a lot of produce is reasonably priced, if you shop around. Buy frozen vegetables, look for specials, and avoid precut veggies, which are more expensive than whole ones. Buy produce that is in season and consider a subscription to a box of imperfect fruits and vegetables, which often comes at a discounted price.

You also can freeze food that you make in a blender or food processor for your baby to help it last longer. Add some chicken or vegetable broth to stretch out a meal.

Be sure not to give honey to an infant under 1 and avoid foods that are choking hazards, such as nuts and raw carrots.

Always remember that you are not alone. Your pediatrician cares about your child’s health and is available to offer suggestions and support.

Dr. Steven A. Abrams is a board-certified pediatrician, the director of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas at Austin. He also is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, go to www.healthychildren.org, the website for parents from the AAP.

Talk to us

More in Life

David Dastmalchian (back left), King Shark (back center) and Daniela Melchior (back right), with John Cena (front left) and Idris Elba (front right) in “The Suicide Squad.” (Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)
Director James Gunn takes ‘Suicide Squad’ on maniacal romp

He brings a new comic energy to the violent comic book adaptation, a follow-up to a much-panned 2016 film.

Workers prepare to offload Dungeness crab from a boat on Pier 45 in the Fisherman's Wharf district in San Francisco, California, on Jan. 13, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by David Paul Morris.
No crabs, no scallops: Seafood is vanishing from menus in U.S.

Seafood prices have risen about 11% over the past year, thanks to congested ports, not enough fishermen and soaring demand.

Sandra Oh as the title character in "Killing Eve." MUST CREDIT: Gareth Gatrell, BBC America
August TV: 4 new shows we can’t wait to see

We’re still more than a month away from the start of the new fall broadcast season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to watch in August.

Adam Driver in "Annette." (Kris Dewitte/Amazon Studios/TNS)
Adam Driver stars in ‘Annette,’ a darkly strange musical

Director Leos Carax’s movie won raves at the Cannes Film Festival; your mileage may vary.

Yogoman Burning Band will perform Jamaican and New Orleans dance rhythms Aug. 6-7 as part of the Bands, Brews and Bowling event at Evergreen Bowling in Everett. (Yogoman Burning Band)
All about music: Schedule of concerts around Snohomish County

The listings include Bands, Brews and Bowling at Evergreen Lanes in Everett.

Laura Smith, with husband Tom, makes Danielle Lam laugh after being presented with a check for $10,000 from The Prize Patrol from Publishers Clearing House on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
‘Holy roses!’ A day in the life of the legendary Prize Patrol

Publishers Clearing House surprised a Mukilteo couple with a sweepstakes prize, flowers and balloons.

Cricket & Snail, a violin and accordion duo from Prague featuring Lucie and James Carlson, is scheduled to perform Aug. 6 at Cafe Zippy in Everett. (Cricket & Snail)
Where to hear live music in Snohomish County nightclubs

The listings include Engel’s Pub, Mirkwood Public House and Port Gardner Bay Winery shows.

Kermet Apio will perform stand-up at the Edmonds Center for the Arts on Sept. 9. (YouTube)
Theater, dance and comedy shows around Snohomish County

The listings include Historic Everett Theatre, Edmonds Center for the Arts and Thumbnail Theater shows.

Nathan Welton/ Dreamtime Images
Photographer David Welton’s work has appeared in the South Whidbey Record and The Daily Herald.
The camera is Whidbey Island man’s second calling

After retiring from a career in medicine, David Welton of Langley focuses on his first love: photography

Most Read