Baby formula is scarce, but do NOT make your own, pediatricians warn desperate parents

Some parents are cooking up their own homemade baby formula recipes using raw cow’s milk

Baby formula is scarce across America, leaving many parents scrambling to find a solution amid reports of supply disruptions and a massive safety recall of many leading brands, according to The Associated Press

Some parents are cooking up their own homemade baby formula recipes using “anything from powdered goat’s milk to raw cow’s milk,” per The New York Times, but pediatricians say do-it-yourself baby formulas carry significant health risks.

Shelves typically stocked with baby formula sit mostly empty at a store in San Antonio, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“Homemade formula is dangerous for babies,” said Dr. Katie Lockwood, a physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Primary Care. “Regular formula is FDA-regulated and held to very high standards, the same way we treat medications. Making it at home is a lot riskier.”

As reported by AP, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the Food and Drug Administration was “working around the clock to address any possible shortages.”

On Tuesday, the FDA said it was working with U.S. manufacturers to increase their output and streamline paperwork to allow more imports. In the meantime, pediatricians and health workers are warning parents against watering down formula to stretch supplies. 

“For babies who are not being breastfed, this is the only thing they eat,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, of the University of Texas, Austin. “So it has to have all of their nutrition and, furthermore, it needs to be properly prepared so that it’s safe for the smallest infants.”

Per CBS News, 43% of formula sellers are now out of stock, according to research firm Datasembly. AP reports that a handful of companies account for almost the entire U.S. supply of commercial baby formula. 

Baby Formula Is Latest Product To Suffer Shortages Due Pandemic Induced Supply Chain Issues
Baby formula is offered for sale at a big box store on Jan. 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. Baby formula has been in short supply in many stores around the country for several months. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“It’s scary for these moms and their babies, and it’s becoming a real issue,” pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann told CNN.

Homemade baby formulas tend to lack the right ratio of protein, fat, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that babies require. This could lead to serious health issues and interfere with the infant’s growth and development. Homemade formulas can also become contaminated with bacteria, which can make babies sick, CNN reports.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has “strongly” advised against homemade formulas because the nutrients in DIY formulas “are inadequate in terms of the critical components babies need, especially protein and minerals,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, a spokesman for the group. 

Pediatricians suggest parents of infants not breastfeeding look into breast milk banks near you through the Human Milk Bank Association of North America. As noted by Dr. Altman, another option is buying online high-quality baby formula products made in Europe and Australia through reputable retailers and trusted pharmacies in the country.

But the FDA recommends against this because imported formula could be counterfeit, a spokesperson said, according to CNN

“Feeding your baby is such a vital part of what you do as a parent,” Dr. Lockwood said. “It can be really anxiety-provoking to feel like you’re not able to meet that basic need.”

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