Experts warn against homemade baby formula

The Facebook post makes it sound deceptively simple: To circumvent a nationwide shortage of baby formula, just make your own. But experts strongly disagree.

The May 11 post says people can follow a 1960 recipe for homemade baby formula as a workaround during the current shortage. It shows a photo of the recipe, with ingredients that include evaporated milk and Karo syrup.

The caption says, “Y’all, I felt this was pertinent information to share considering the shortages we are facing with our babies. I personally have not used this method yet but glad to have the details just in case!”

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

(Screenshot from Facebook)

Making baby formula is not as simple as it sounds, though. The US Food & Drug Administration advises against it, and says consuming homemade formula can result in adverse health effects for infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also strongly advises against homemade formulas, saying they are not safe and do not meet babies’ nutritional needs.

The shortage of infant formula, attributed to COVID-19 related supply chain issues and a product recall that led to a temporary facility shutdown by a major formula manufacturer, has increased dramatically since the first half of 2021, with 40% of formulas now out of stock nationwide, The Atlantic reported. The White House recently announced steps intended to ease the shortage, including making it easier to import formula and cracking down on price gouging. The FDA is also expediting and streamlining some of its processes in an effort to address the shortage.

Following cases in 2021 of hospitalized infants suffering from low calcium after being fed homemade formula, the FDA reported that potential problems with homemade versions include contamination and inadequate amounts of critical nutrients.

“These problems are very serious, and the consequences range from severe nutritional imbalances to foodborne illnesses, both of which can be life-threatening,” according to the agency.

Homemade formulas may not provide enough of some nutrients, or they can contain too-large quantities of others, which is equally dangerous. For example, homemade formula might have too much salt, which infants’ kidneys and livers cannot handle in large amounts, wrote Dr. Steven Abrams, chair of the National Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a May 9 blog post.

Commercial infant formulas, on the other hand, “are designed to mimic human breast milk as closely as possible, and are carefully regulated to make sure they have the nutrients growing babies need – in a form their bodies can process,” the New York Times reported.

Regarding the 1960 recipe featured in the Facebook post, a pediatric gastroenterologist told CBS News DFW that our understanding of nutrition has evolved since that time.

“What worked or what they thought worked in the 1960s, we have much better scientific knowledge now to know that it can cause short-term harm, but most importantly, long-term harm for the baby,” said Dr. Rina Sanghavi, of UT Southwestern Children’s Health Dallas.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says people can follow a 1960 recipe for homemade baby formula as a workaround during the current shortage.

But the FDA advises against it, and says consuming homemade formula can result in adverse health effects for infants. And the American Academy of Pediatrics also strongly advises against homemade formulas, saying they are not safe and do not meet babies’ nutritional needs.

We rate this claim False.

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