Are there any inexpensive or free sources of baby formula?

When You Can't Afford Baby Formula

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We Can't Afford Our Baby's Specialty Baby Formula

I am the mother of a 5-month-old son. He has terrible allergies and must take Nutramigen® by Enfamil. He goes through about $200 per month, which is more than our food budget. Although the company will send a few sporadic coupons here and there, they do not help much. We are just over the WIC income level. Any ideas?
Desperate Mom


Desperate mom was wondering how to save money on formula. Has she considered relactating? The baby cannot be allergic to mom's own milk and it will save on health care costs for baby, not to mention helping protect mom from breast cancer, osteoporosis, cervical cancer and uterine cancer. She can call any La Leche League group in 64 countries worldwide for information. Good luck! It can be done.

Ask for Samples

Some Pediatricians have this stuff in their offices. The reader could ask for one once in a while.

Sometimes the powder is more expensive than the ready-made or concentrate. Maybe switch?

Sometimes people donate this stuff to Goodwill stores or Salvation Army as well.

And as a last resort, even though her baby is 5-months-old (granted I do know all her circumstances), it may not too late to nurse her baby. Her OB can prescribe something to help her lactate and actually putting the baby to the breast may help. This is the best for baby, even ones with allergies and it's free!
Linda C.J.

When You Can't Afford Baby Formula

Check Out LaLeche League Resources

Yes, I can well imagine it must be frightening for you, feeling you can not afford to feed your precious baby.

Your baby comes first and not just because of his allergies, but because in all families, the needs of the baby should come first. They are the most vulnerable. So, consider what you can do to cut expenses elsewhere.

Another thing you could try would be relactation. That is, rebuilding your own body's milk supply to feed your baby. Breastmilk is the # 1 way to prevent and reduce the severity of allergies in babies and children. Because your baby is already 5 months old, it's likely that this would only be a partial success, if your baby would even be willing to try.

How would you go about relactating? It takes time, effort, and perseverance. It also takes a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). This is a feeding system that allows your baby to learn to breastfeed again, while getting his very expensive artificial baby milk through a tube.

You can get a SNS and more information either from a Lactation Consultant or from a La Leche League Leader. If you are in a large urban center, look up breastfeeding in the yellow pages, or La Leche League in the white pages. In a small town, call your community health department or the local maternity ward of the hospital.

The most important thing you can do at this point is to learn what foods affect your baby the most. Do your best to avoid these yourself while you relactate. Some food sensitivities will come through the milk. Your baby will not be allergic to your milk, but could be to the foods you consume and pass through to your milk.

Check sale prices for Baby Formula on Amazon.

With your next child, plan to breastfeed. If you have one child with severe allergies, it is quite possible that future children will also have allergies. Learn what you can about breastfeeding beforehand. A good way to do this is to attend La Leche League meetings before your baby is born. You'll learn about the advantages of breastfeeding, some of the expectations and realities that occur when baby arrives, how to avoid and overcome difficulties, and get info on weaning and nutrition. As well, groups have lending libraries of books on childbirth, breastfeeding, nutrition (including info on allergies) and parenting.

You can also check out La Leche League's website for more info on breastfeeding. Good luck!
Mother of two

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Insurance Should Pay for It

If your son must take Nutramigen for a specific medical reason, then you can try to get your insurance to cover it. Ask your doctor for details. If not, ask your doctor if he can prescribe a formula that your insurance will cover for your son.

My son was on Alimentum for awhile, then switched to NeoCate which is prescription ($50 per can- lasted 1-2 days). The insurance covered 100% of it.

Contact the Manufacturer

She can call Enfamil (the number is on the can label). They have a few different programs she may qualify for. These programs send free formula to families who request them. As far as I know, there are no restrictions. You just have to ask.

Also, she may want to consider switching to Similac if it wouldn't hurt her baby. They have special formulas like that. She can call their 800 number (on label) and they will send her coupons for free formula (any type of formula!). My husband and I did this and were able to get a lot of free formula.

Check with your local hospital. They often have tons of samples that just sit on their shelves, waiting for their expiration date.
Meg G.
Mommy to Catie, 7-10-96

Soy Worked for My Baby

My daughter had a allergy and horrendous colic problem when she was an infant. My doctor suggested the same formula that your 5 month old is currently using. However, it is extremely costly and actually very nasty tasting. My neighbor suggested Alsoy formula. I tried it with my daughter, and she had no problems with it and it cured the colic. Ask your doctor about switching to Alsoy formula made by Carnation. It's the cheapest on the market, and it did wonders for my daughter.

Have you asked Enfamil if they have any type of programs for cost reduction? Indicate that you may have to switch. Companies hate to lose customers.

Contact doctors, public or private hospitals, and HRS to see if there is any help out there for you.

Make phone calls. Even if you call the same agency twice, you may get a different response. I have found out time and time again that the first person you contact doesn't really know. Therefore, you increase your chance of getting the most correct response the second time around.

Shop for Best Price

My son used to have to take Nutramigen, too. I agree that it is a huge expense. Did you know you don't have to buy it at a pharmacy? Large grocery stores sell it, too.

We went to the city and priced it at each large grocery store chain. Then we found out where it was cheapest and started buying it buy the case. We made a monthly trip to the city to buy formula. And if we weren't going, we found someone who was and asked if they'd stop and pick some up for us.

I know the price has gone up since we used it, but the last time I looked, it was quite a bit less than $18 at a large grocery store.

Tell Your Story

I know exactly what you're going through! My one year old developed an allergy to carbohydrates (in any form). We had to use "RCF" formula, which was expensive like yours is!

I finally asked a drug company representative in my Pediatrician's office about options. He was sitting in the waiting room awaiting his "turn" with the Doctor to promote new drugs/medicines/products for his company, which turned out to be Ross Manufacturing, the company who marketed RCF.

In my case, two days after I tearfully explained my child's plight, the Ross company's semi truck backed into my driveway and a driver dropped off 12 cases of the formula for me at no cost!

The drug company rep authorized it! It was enough to last another 11 months. In my beautiful child's case, it was enough to see her through until she'd "outgrown" the problem.

Since then, I've learned that most drug companies leave "samples" for people and they are part of the company budget. I now ask my MD for "samples" whenever he prescribes things and he is usually very generous.
Kim L. in Spirit Lake IA

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Have Doctor Call Company

A few years ago, my daughter was on a special diet due to some heart problems. The method our doctor had us using to prepare formula had us going through five cases a month, which was more than we could afford. After a phone call to the formula company (MeadJohnson) to see about coupons, a representative of the formula company told me about a program the company had called Helping Hands that can provide formula at a reduced price or for free. All I had to do was have our daughter's doctor call the formula company and request that we get assistance. The formula was delivered to his office, and we picked it up at no cost. You might try calling to see if you can get assistance like this. I know they also help families of multiples.

Be Careful of Experiments

I, too, had a son with terrible asthma who needed Nutramigen formula. Believe me, you don't want to experiment with creatively frugal solutions. We tried soy based formula and went back to the cow's-milk based formula--and he had asthma attacks. So if your son is allergic, he really needs the stuff. My pediatrician's office very kindly gave me sample cases after I explained my financial situation to them. Doctors receive a lot of promotional samples from the infant formula companies. They are not likely to supply all that you need, but it was a big help for us. And I used all the coupons I could, of course. I am sure you will get responses about "why aren't you breast feeding?" but I think many people don't understand that some of us can't. I tried with both my sons, to no avail. Don't let those comments get you down.
Becky R. in Fort Myers, Florida

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Watch for Switch to Solids

Five months is almost half way down the formula road. Keep two things in mind. First, baby's tend to outgrow allergies, so keep on top of your child's needs. In two weeks, you may be able to wean him away from the more expensive formula to something more managable. Second, your baby is now approaching the age of solids. When my three-year-old daughter was 5 months old, I had started solids, being very dedicated and determined about the process. Two months later, she was getting a large majority of her calories from solids and was drinking one or two bottles of formula a day. By nine months, she was taking one 8 ounce bottle of formula a day, getting her needed liquids from juice (not apple!) and water. Believe it or not, I was actually concerned about the low amount of formula she was taking in, and spoke with her doctor. The doctor reminded me that formula is a formula; scientists somewhere created what they thought was best for my child. Solid foods have been around for quite some time and my child was better off concentrating on solids in the last half of her infancy. So if my baby preferred solids, all the better! Speak with your pediatrician on both points, and don't hesitate to let them know money is a large consideration.
Jennifer C.

See a Registered Dietitian

In response to the family with the expensive infant formula, I would suggest that if they have not seen the Registered Dietitian at their health clinic or local hospital that they do so for the following reasons. He/She could determine if there is a less expensive alternative to the formula available. And he/she may possibly have free samples from the sales rep or could get some.

He/She will know to whom you could turn to find out, with a MD prescription, if this formula could qualify for insurance reimbursement as it is prescribed for a medical condition. Be the squeaky wheel on this one.

Reviewed January 2018

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