Homemade baby formula can be life-threatening, FDA says

Parents and caregivers are being cautioned not to make or feed babies homemade infant formula due to potentially life-threatening problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its warning after recently receiving reports of hospitalized infants suffering from hypocalcemia — low calcium — that had been fed concoctions made at home. 

Infant formulas made at home can pose serious health and safety concerns, including contamination and not having adequate amounts of nutrients vital to a baby’s growth, the agency said in issuing an alert this week.

Marketed in liquid and powder forms, commercial infant formula products are strictly regulated by the FDA, which requires they contain minimum levels of certain nutrients. Regulators don’t evaluate homemade formula recipes, which could be unsafe, The  potential consequences range from “severe nutritional imbalances to foodborne illnesses, both of which can be life-threatening,” the agency stated.

One example of harm caused by homemade formula occurred in 2016, when a Nebraska toddler was hospitalized with a toxic vitamin D overdose reportedly caused by formula made with a recipe found online. 

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Parents and caregivers with infants who have consumed homemade formula should contact their health care provider to report any symptoms and receive care, the agency advised. 

In addition to the FDA, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also advises against making your own formula. 

“Your baby’s nutritional needs are very specific, especially in the first year of life. Homemade infant formulas may contain too little or too much of certain components, such as vitamins and minerals (like iron,)” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AAP recommends that infants be fed only breast milk for their first six months. Still, work and other life issues can come into play, prompting many to turn to formula to replace or supplement mother’s milk. Pediatricians commonly advise using iron-fortified infant formulas, and most commercial formulas sold in the U.S. contain iron.