Warning as parents forced to resort to feeding watered down milk to babies due to soaring cost of formula

Babies are at risk of malnutrition as parents are resorting to watering down milk, or adding cereal to milk, amid the soaring cost of baby formula, charities have warned.

Parents are struggling to afford formula for their babies.
Parents are struggling to afford formula for their babies.

A Scottish charity has said it has seen an “enormous increase” in the number of families unable to feed their young babies as the price of some formula milks rocketed by more than a fifth.

An independent inquiry conducted by the charity Feed has found that families unable to afford to purchase infant formula, or who have been unable to access formula due to food bank policies which restrict the redistribution of formula, resort to practices including watering down formula or feeding their babies with food that is not suitable, such as porridge or cereal. Others are forced to skip feeds entirely. As a result, babies are at risk of being underfed.

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Analysis by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, has found that the cost of infant formula rose rapidly over the last year.

Aldi’s Mamia First Infant Milk – the cheapest infant formula on the market – increased by 22 per cent from £6.99 to £8.49 for 900g, while the cost of Aptamil 1 First Milk increased by 17 per cent from £11.50 to £13.50 for 800g.

Meanwhile, baby banks have reported an increase in demand for their services as more parents struggle to afford the infant formula. While some baby and food banks will provide families in need with infant formula, others currently have policies in place which prevent their food banks from redistributing formula donations. Food banks follow guidance from the Unicef UK baby friendly initiative, which states that they should not accept donations of formula milk “due to concerns for the safety of the baby”.

Earlier this year, charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) called for “barriers” which may prevent some from taking formula from food banks to be removed.

Michelle Herd, co-founder of AberNecessites, a baby bank based in Aberdeen, said: "We have seen an enormous increase in referrals for parents struggling to feed their little ones due to the soaring prices of formula milk. We are dealing with the youngest babies in society – we must ensure they are fed. There is no other option.

"We need to make sure that infant formula is available to families who need it - whether that be through food banks and baby banks. In addition, the government must investigate rising costs, particularly for vital products such as infant formula. Our fear is that without access to this basic essential, we will see babies in hospital, malnourished."

Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, said: "As our Mumsnet Voices Cost of Living Tracker repeatedly shows, the cost of living crisis is affecting families across the board - but it is particularly shocking to hear that the soaring cost of formula milk means some parents are struggling to feed their babies.

"At Mumsnet we have repeatedly called for better infant feeding support for new mums - but it's clear that we also need immediate practical action to support families on low incomes in these difficult times. The Government must act urgently to ensure no parent struggles to feed their baby this winter."

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