Some pediatricians are warning against making homemade baby formula as a nationwide shortage of the product continues, triggering panic among parents.
Pediatrician Tanya Altman told news outlets that baby formula, which is designed to mimic a mother’s breast milk, is “a very complex nutrient-dense product made from years of development and clinical trials specifically for the needs of growing and developing babies.”
“Homemade infant formulas often do not have the correct ratio of important nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals,” she continued, according to Good Housekeeping, adding that infants can experience nutrient deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances by consuming homemade formulas, which may bring about developmental problems in the child.
Meanwhile, David Abrams, who formerly served as chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s National Committee on Nutrition, wrote a recent article saying that it’s not recommended to dilute baby formula.
“While it may be tempting to water down formula to stretch it out, it is not safe to do that,” he wrote. “Always follow label instructions or those given to you by your pediatrician. Watering down formula is dangerous. It can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.”
Abrams said that cow’s milk isn’t an ideal solution, but it can be used as a last resort. He argued that it’s a better option than making homemade formula or diluting formula.
“This may be an option if your child is older than 6 months of age and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product for allergies or other special health needs),” he explained. “In a pinch, you could feed them whole cow’s milk for a brief period of time until the shortage is better. This is not ideal and should not become routine.”
“However, it is a better option than diluting formula or making homemade formula. The most important concern with giving an infant over 6 months of age cow’s milk is making sure they get enough iron. Be sure to include plenty of iron-containing solid foods in their diet while you are using whole cow’s milk. You may also talk with your pediatrician about giving your baby an iron supplement.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if a child is over six months old, they can be gradually given various solid foods.
Speaking to CNN, Abrams urged parents not to give children almond milk or other plant-based milk such as soy milk or oat milk because they don’t have enough protein or minerals required for infants.
Amid the shortage, some parents have opted to purchase baby formula from other countries. But some experts say that it’s important to find a reputable distributor. It’s worth noting, meanwhile, that over a decade ago, a scandal embroiled China after significant amounts of baby formula and milk powder were found to be tainted with poisonous melamine.
“What I ask [parents] to do is make sure that they’re buying from a reputable retailer, that the formula meets the nutrient requirements of the U.S. formula act for an iron-fortified infant formula and [meets] government regulations,” Dr. Tonya Altmann told USA Today in a recent report.
Another alternative, experts say, is to try and obtain pasteurized breastmilk from donation banks, according to the report. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America has a website dedicated to helping parents find donated breastmilk.