Parents are watering down infant formula and feeding their babies porridge instead because they can’t afford it, charities have warned.
Prices have surged over the past year, with even the cheapest formula brand now 22% more expensive, analysis shows.
Currently, Healthy Start vouchers provide pregnant women and new mothers with £8.50 a week to buy nutritious food.
But rising costs means it no longer covers the amount of formula needed to safely feed a baby in the first six months of their life, BPAS said.
NHS guidance recommends babies are exclusively breastfed for their first year, but figures suggest the majority of babies are partially or fully formula fed by the time they are six to eight weeks old.
The charity Feed said the growing unaffordability is putting babies at risk of malnutrition and serious illness.
Meanwhile, foodbanks are getting more and more referrals for formula milk, but they currently have policies in place preventing them handing it out.
Unicef warns that ‘while on the surface’ foodbanks ‘seem like a practical solution,’ handing out formula ‘can be a risky practice that can inadvertently cause harm’.
Charities are now calling on the Government to increase the Healthy Start allowance to £10 a week for infants.
BPAS chief executive Clare Murphy said: ‘We know that families experiencing food poverty resort to unsafe feeding methods, such as stretching out time between feeds and watering down formula.
‘The Government cannot stand by as babies are placed at risk of malnutrition and serious illness due to the cost-of-living crisis and the soaring price of infant formula.
‘The Government must increase the value of Healthy Start Vouchers to protect the health of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.’
Michelle Herd, co-founder of baby bank AberNecessities, said: ‘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.’
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