Safe Alternatives to Breast Milk for Newborns

Physical inadequacies or health problems may affect milk production and prevent mothers from breastfeeding. What are the alternatives? How safe are these foods for your baby?

By Indhu Rebecca Varghese

Safe Alternatives to Breast Milk for Newborns

Motherhood is often depicted by a touching picture of a breastfeeding mother and the exchange of emotions between mother and child. Though this does define motherhood, there are many mothers who choose not to breastfeed, due to physical inadequacies or health problems that affect milk production. Working out of office combined with short maternity leaves forces some mothers to give up breastfeeding. Lactose intolerance in the infant could be another reason for resorting to breast milk substitutes. 

According to paediatricians, breast milk is incomparable to any other food. It is the elixir that builds immunity in your child. It is vital that a mother who can’t breastfeed for one reason or another, should use effective substitutes for breast milk. We bring you a list of alternatives with the pros and cons:


Formula is often the first choice as a breast milk substitute because of lack of awareness of other options. Formula is designed to be as effective as breast milk. It is also fortified with nutrients. Ensure that you choose age-appropriate products. Be informed about the ingredients used in formula since it may have a high concentration of sweeteners.

Homemade baby formula

If you distrust store-bought formulae, you can try to make them at home. The confidence that you can have in the ingredients used is unparalleled, provided you get your hands on them. We have a detailed recipe for making homemade formula here.

Nutritious baby food recipe:

Homemade ragi porridge for babies over 4 months


250 g ragi (finger millet)


  • Clean ragi to remove dirt and debris.
  • Wash and soak ragi for 18-24 hours.
  • Change the water every 2 hours to prevent odour.
  • Drain the water and rinse the millet in clean water.
  • Place the ragi in a clean white cloth (preferably muslin to make sprouting easy) and tie it up tightly.
  • Place in a cool corner of your kitchen away from light. You can either hang it down from a peg or place it in a dry container. Presence of moisture will prevent sprouting.
  • After a day, the ragi will have sprouted by half an inch. Remove from the cloth and spread it out on a dry cloth to dry.
  • Dry the sprouted ragi in shade for 2 days in a well-ventilated place or dry roast it on a tawa.
  • When the ragi is crisp and dry, powder it in a blender. Grind in batches till it becomes a smooth powder. Sieve to remove coarse particles. Your baby food is now ready.

How to use

  • Take 1 tsp of ragi powder in a pan. Add half a cup of water and mix well till you get a smooth paste without any lumps.
  • Cook till it reaches a semi-thick consistency. Allow to cool. Add milk and sugar and your ragi porridge is ready.

Note: Consult your doctor about when to introduce ragi in your baby's diet. Follow the 3-day wait and test rule. Do not give your baby any new food for 3 days following the introduction of ragi.

What are the must-have foods for a breastfeeding mother? Click the article to find out.

Goat’s milk

Considered to be closest in composition to breast milk, goat’s milk, however, is not going to be enough on its own. Go for original goat’s milk, which can be digested easily by your baby. Talk to your doctor for more information on how to fortify it.

Soy milk

Soy milk is approved as a breast milk substitute. It is made from protein, soy extracts, amino acids, vegetable oils and carbohydrates derived from corn starch, vitamins and minerals. Soy milk must be used with discretion as because it leads to digestive problems in some babies.

Remember that there is no real substitute to breast milk. Alternatives must be resorted to only in unavoidable cases. It is important to consult your paediatrician before making any changes so that you can make an informed choice about the alternative to be used and to determine the pace at which it can be introduced into your infant’s feeding schedule.

Want to know how to store breast milk? Click the article below.