Baby formula shortage: why it is risky to prepare it at home


The nationwide shortage of formula in the United States has prompted intervention by President Joe Biden, action by Congress…and desperation by parents trying to make homemade versions, which can put their babies’ health and nutrition at risk.

The lack of powdered milk and liquid versions of the food that replaces breast milk began with the pandemic, but intensified when one of the main producers of formula, the Abbott laboratory, closed one of its plants in Michigan due to contamination and called a nationwide recall of this milk.

The desperation due to the lack of food for their babies has made many moms and dads look for homemade alternatives, which can end up being counterproductive.

In the face of this unprecedented emergency, the American Association of Pediatrics offers advice for desperate parents:

What if baby formula is out of stock everywhere?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Biden administration announced that it is taking steps to help improve the supply of infant formula and specialty products. This includes the call for other national formula producers to intensify their production, and purchase internationally.

It’s fine to buy formula online while market shortages last, but it must be from reputable distributors and pharmacies.

Doesn’t it affect the baby to change brands?

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For most babies, it’s fine to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is taking a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula like Elecare.

In this case, the pediatrician should be consulted about the recommended special formula alternatives available for the baby.

You should always follow the pediatrician’s advice, but it is also worth following one of the Facebook groups or other social networks that bring together parents in the same situation. Although you should always be cautious, you can get valuable information about places where you can find formula.

Is it okay to put more water in baby formula?

No. While it may be tempting to dilute the formula to increase it, it is not safe to do so. Always follow the instructions on the label or those of the pediatrician. Diluting the formula is dangerous. It can cause nutritional imbalances in the baby and lead to serious health problems. Always mix the formula according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can I make my own baby formula?

The American Association of Pediatrics strongly discourages home formula preparation. Although the recipes for homemade formulas that circulate on the Internet may seem healthy or less expensive, they are not safe and do not meet the nutritional needs of the baby. Infant deaths have been reported from the use of some homemade formulas.

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Is imported baby formula good?

The FDA is considering accelerated approval of certain imported formulations. Many sold in Europe, for example, contain the right nutrients, but must be imported and shipped in a way that maintains temperature and other safety standards.

Can toddler formula substitute for regular formula?

Toddler formulas are not recommended for babies. However, if you have no other choice, toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies who are about a year old.

Can formula produced for premature babies be given to babies who were not?

Formulas designed for babies who were born premature (and have to “catch up” with growth) can be used safely for a few weeks to feed full-term babies if nothing else is available.

Cow’s milk, is it a safe alternative to baby formula?

If the baby is older than 6 months and usually takes regular formula (not a special product for allergies or other special health needs), it may be an option. In a pinch, the baby could be fed whole cow’s milk for a short time until the shortage improves. But remember that this is not ideal and should not become routine.

However, it is a better option than diluting the formula or making homemade formula.

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The most important concern when giving cow’s milk to a baby older than 6 months if infant formula cannot be found is to make sure they get enough iron to prevent anemia. Your pediatrician can help set up an emergency plan with iron-containing foods and supplements.

Can you feed the baby with goat’s milk?

Goat’s milk is not approved for babies in the United States. However, there are goat milk-based infant formulas registered in other countries that may be among those being considered for accelerated import approval by the FDA.

Is plant-based milk good for the baby?

Milk alternatives are not recommended for infants under one year of age or infants with certain medical conditions that require specialized formulas. Soy milk can be an option to give to babies who are close to a year for a few days in an emergency, but always buy the versions fortified with protein and calcium. Switch back to the regular formula as soon as it becomes available again.

For desperate parents, a message: this is a temporary situation and there are many entities trying to fix it. Meanwhile, consulting with the baby’s pediatrician is essential to receive the best advice, alternatives and solutions.

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