Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe? Best Tips To Use It

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Baby formula is a tailored product made to suit the nutritional needs of babies who cannot consume breast milk. It is said to be the most similar in composition to breast milk. You may come across several homemade baby formula recipes even though various brands of commercial baby formula are available on the market. However, whether it is store-bought or homemade, choose a suitable formula for your baby based on their needs.

You may be enticed to attempt homemade recipes at least once because they are more economical and adaptable. But, before you make any decisions, it is necessary to consider whether a homemade infant formula is safe for infants.

This post addresses your concerns and walks you through the intricacies of making homemade baby formula.

Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a homemade formula may not have the ideal nutritional composition to meet your baby’s dietary needs. Additionally, it may have an increased risk of contamination, increasing the risk of infections and illnesses (1).

Thus, experts strongly advise you to choose a commercial baby formula reviewed and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). The baby formula should meet the minimum nutritional and safety requirements laid by the organization (2). This recommendation also applies to formulas imported from other countries that the US FDA has not reviewed.

Potential Issues With Using Homemade Formula

The homemade formula isn’t advisable for babies due to the following possible health and safety concerns.

  1. Improper nutritional composition: Infants have specific dietary needs to support their growth and development. They require the correct proportion of macro and micronutrients. Including proteins, fats, vitamins and micronutrients. Due proportion is most important. It can be difficult to achieve the ideal nutritional composition in your kitchen. Any error in measuring ingredients can cause an under or overfeeding of nutrients, increasing the risk of nutrient deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies lead to malnutrition risk, which can lead to health issues, such as poor growth and development (3).
  1. Possibility of contamination: Manufacturers follow stringent hygiene norms while making infant formula. Meeting those standards at home is extremely difficult. Even the slightest of hygiene and sanitization lapses can lead to contamination, exposing the baby to severe infections. Though commercial formulas may not be 100 percent sterile, the US FDA regularly inspects the products and manufacturing unit to achieve the highest safety standards (1).
  1. Unsafe ingredients: Several homemade formula recipes use unsafe base ingredients, such as unpasteurized whole cow’s milk. Raw milk is a potential carrier of pathogens, such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, that could cause severe enteric and in some cases life-threatening infections in babies.
  1. Missed micronutrients: Animal and plant-based milk types lack certain micronutrients that babies need to meet their nutritional needs (4). These are otherwise present in breast milk. Commercial infant formula manufacturers fortify the formula with essential micronutrients, such as iron and calcium. However, fortifying homemade formula with those nutrients in your kitchen isn’t possible.

Keeping these concerns in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents and caregivers feed iron-fortified commercial infant formula to their babies when feeding breast milk isn’t possible.

Tips To Use Homemade Baby Formula

Experts suggest homemade baby formula may not be safe and may not meet your baby’s nutritional needs. However, if you still wish to try homemade infant formula for your baby, you should follow some precautionary steps.

  1. Consult your pediatrician: Before you buy groceries for your homemade formula, consult the recipe with your pediatrician or a certified nutritionist. They will evaluate the recipe in terms of type and proportion of ingredients, measurements, and formula preparation methods. Based on the same, they might give you the nod or alert you on the recipe’s possible pitfalls and the dangers it may raise.
  1. Maintain hygiene: Maintain optimum hygiene and sanitization standards before, during, and after formula preparation. Washing the hands thoroughly, cleaning the kitchen surface properly, and sanitizing and cleaning the utensils to be used for preparation and storage are vital.
  1. Stay alert on health issues: Homemade formula may not be accurate in its nutrient composition, so stay watchful for signs that may indicate the baby isn’t adjusting to the formula well. Sudden changes in the baby’s appetite, loose stool or diarrhea, vomiting, and fever are some of the signs towards which you should pay heed.

You must also stay alert to the baby’s growth and developmental milestones if you wish to continue serving homemade infant formula. Poor growth, weight gain, and developmental regressions may indicate a nutritional deficiency. Stop feeding the homemade formula and consult your doctor to prevent any developmental delay.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I make formula with just boiled water?

You can prepare formula by simply mixing boiled water that has been cooled down and formula powder according to the label’s instructions.

2. How long can I keep boiled water for formula?

Each time you prepare formula, use water that has been freshly boiled and kept cool for less than 30 minutes (5).

3. Is warm formula easier to digest?

Insufficient research is available to prove that warm formula is easier to digest. Hence, if your baby prefers chilled, cool, or room-temperature formula, it is safe to feed it to them.

4. Can I use tap water for formula?

You can use tap water to prepare baby formula as long as it is first boiled and cooled.

Babies who cannot have breastmilk are recommended to consume infant formula. They are available in standard compositions in the market to serve the different needs of babies. Alternatively, you may wish to try making a homemade formula for your baby. However, homemade versions may present safety concerns such as pathogens and other contaminants. Additionally, you may miss adding some of the key ingredients, resulting in nutritional deficiencies in your baby. Check with a pediatrician or a pediatric dietician to avoid making mistakes in the recipe or method of baby formula preparation at home.

Key Pointers

  • The CDC does not recommend using the formula for babies as it does not meet the required dietary needs.
  • Contamination, unsafe ingredients, or missed micronutrients are the potential issues associated with using the formula for babies.
  • Maintain hygiene while using formula, consult your pediatrician, and track your baby’s health.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different... more

Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla

(MBBS, DCH, MCPS)
Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla is a well-known pediatrician, practicing paediatrics since the last 20 years in Karachi Pakistan. She is the head of the department of Pediatrics in Karachi Liaquat Hospital, as well as her private practice in three specialist clinics in Pediatrics. She is also a Public Health Specialist specializing in preventive health including nutrition, breastfeeding and infectious diseases especially... more

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