Is homemade formula safe?

Recipes for homemade baby formula can be found on many parenting blogs and other sources on the internet. But, is homemade baby formula safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) do not recommend making homemade formula. It can cause nutritional imbalances and may contain unsafe ingredients that can harm infants.

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Vital Nutrients for Healthy Growth and Development

Great care must be taken to ensure infants receive all the nutrients vital to their growth and development.

For the first year of life, an infant’s needs are very specific. Homemade baby formulas often miss certain ingredients, such as the right amount of vitamins or iron, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Babies can receive these nutrients both by breastfeeding and from formulas that meet FDA guidelines.

Homemade formula also can contain too many of some ingredients, such as salt, that your baby’s kidneys or liver cannot process.

A 2020 study of 144 homemade formula recipes from various parenting blogs found that nearly half of the recipes used ingredients that could cause a food-borne illness.

Homemade formula has also been linked to rickets, a bone disorder caused by very low vitamin D and calcium levels.

The FDA recommends that any parent or caregiver who has used a homemade formula contact their health care provider to report any symptoms.

How do I Ensure My Baby is Getting Enough Nutrients?

Breastfeeding your baby provides your baby with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats needed for growth and development. It can also help protect a baby from infections and other health problems.

While breast milk is the ideal food for babies, there are many reasons you may not be able to rely 100% on breast milk. Some moms may choose to only breastfeed or only use formula, or they may use a combination of the two. Your baby can get the nutrition he or she needs from formula.

Commercially produced formula

Whereas homemade formulas are not recommended, the FDA regulates the contents, production, and distribution of commercial formulas, making them safe to use.

This doesn’t mean, however, that all formulas are the same. The AAP has a guide for choosing the right infant formula for your child’s needs.

Cows’ milk-based formulas

The majority of available formulas (80%) are cows’ milk-based formulas.

Even though you should not give an infant cows’ milk directly, the milk used in FDA-approved formulas has been changed dramatically to make it safe for baby use. More lactose is added to make the concentration equal to that found in breast milk. Butterfat is removed and replaced with vegetable oils and other fats more easily digested by infants.

Cows’ milk formulas are also iron-fortified to meet an infant’s needs and reduce the rate of iron-deficiency anemia.

Extensively hydrolyzed formula

The protein content in this formula has already been broken down into smaller pieces to help digestion. These formulas can help ease gas and other digestive discomfort and can be used with infants who have a cows’ milk allergy.

Specialized formulas

If your infant has a digestive disease or disorder, food allergies or sensitivities, or was born premature, your pediatrician may recommend a specialized formula. Specialized formulas are designed to give your baby nutrients to meet their specific needs. You should follow instructions very carefully.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding offers many benefits for both baby and mom. For mothers choosing to breastfeed, the CDC highlights five benefits:

  • Nutrition: Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies.
  • Lower risk of disease: Breastfeeding lowers the risk of certain short- and long-term illnesses like asthma, ear infections, and food allergies.
  • Shared antibodies: Shared antibodies from mother to baby can help build a strong immune system.
  • Convenience: Mixing formula on the road can be a hassle. Breastfeeding mothers don’t have to prepare bottles and mix formula when traveling.
  • Reduced risk of illness and disease for mothers: Certain cancers, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes are less common in mothers who breastfeed.

If you decide to breastfeed your baby, a professional lactation consultant at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is ready to support you. For more information, visit UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital or call 1-866-696-2433.

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/breastfeeding-benefits/index.html#:~:text=Breastfeeding%20can%20help%20protect%20babies,ear%20infections%20and%20stomach%20bugs.

https://share.upmc.com/2017/08/lactation-center-at-magee-womens/?source=search-results_title

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/formula-feeding/choosing-an-infant-formula.html

https://www.fda.gov/food/alerts-advisories-safety-information/fda-advises-parents-and-caregivers-not-make-or-feed-homemade-infant-formula-infants

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/well/family/baby-formula-shortage.html#:%7E:text=Moore%20said%2C%20by%20mixing%20the,old%20formula%2C%E2%80%9D%20she%20said

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32157977/

https://www.fda.gov/food/people-risk-foodborne-illness/questions-answers-consumers-concerning-infant-formula#12

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/Choosing-an-Infant-Formula.aspx

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/Is-Homemade-Baby-Formula-Safe.aspx

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/cows-milk-and-milk-alternatives.html#:~:text=At%2012%20months%20old%20(but,of%20nutrients%20your%20baby%20needs.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7033a4.htm

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000344.htm

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.