Baby formula is a tailored product prepared to meet the nutritional needs of babies who can’t consume breast milk. There are several brands of commercial baby formula available in the market. The one you choose depends on your infant’s needs.
While you search for a suitable formula for your baby, you may come across several homemade formula recipes making rounds over the internet. As these recipes appear inexpensive and customizable, you may get lured to try them, at least for once. But before you take any decision, ask yourself — Is homemade baby formula safe for babies?
This post will answer your queries and take you through the nuances of using homemade infant formula for babies.
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.
- Improper nutritional composition: Infants have specific dietary needs to support their growth and development. They require the correct proportion of macro and micronutrients. 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).
- Possibility of contamination: Manufacturers follow stringent hygiene norms while making infant formula. Meeting those standards at home is 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).
- 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 infections in babies.
- Missed micronutrients: Animal and plant-based milk types lack certain micronutrients that babies need to meet their nutritional needs (4). 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 the utensils to be used for preparation and storage are vital.
- 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 and developmental regressions may indicate a nutritional deficiency. Stop feeding the homemade formula and consult your doctor to prevent any developmental delay.
Infant formula is a source of nutrition for babies who can’t have breast milk. You can explore several brands and select one after taking the pediatrician’s opinion. During the course, you might get lured to trying a homemade formula, but ascertain its safety and long-term health effects to make an informed decision.
2. Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?; AAP
3. Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?; Kids Health From Nemours
4. Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs; AAP