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The dangers of homemade baby formula

A full baby bottle on its side next to a pacifier.

May 23, 2022—Faced with the infant formula shortage, making infant formula at home might sound like a solution. But when it comes to baby formula, DIY is dangerous. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), homemade formula can carry serious—even life-threatening—health risks.

Get the facts about formula

Infant formula is designed to be a full or partial substitute for human milk. That's more complicated than it might seem. Babies need specific nutrients—such as protein, iron, calcium and vitamins—for healthy growth. And they need to get those nutrients in the right proportions.

According to AAP, if babies miss out on key nutrients, even for a few days, it can cause serious problems. FDA reports that babies have been hospitalized after drinking homemade formula.

FDA regulates the infant formula found on store shelves to make sure it is safe and has the right nutrients to keep babies healthy and growing. That includes minimum amounts for 29 ingredients. FDA also regulates how the formula must be made and stored.

Homemade formula is high-risk

When you make your own baby formula, you can't be sure it has everything your baby needs. According to AAP, formula made with cow's milk or milk alternatives may lack important nutritional elements. Or a homemade formula might have too much of others, such as salt. That can harm babies, because their organs aren't yet ready to handle it.

Homemade formulas may have nutrients in forms that a baby can't digest yet. Even important nutrients like calcium can mix with others in ways that are not good for a baby's growth.

And even in a clean kitchen, you can't be sure your homemade formula is not contaminated with harmful bacteria.

If you've already tried feeding your baby homemade formula, call your child's healthcare provider. They can help make sure your little one is doing well.

Don't water down formula

Adding extra water to formula is also unsafe. The formula is carefully balanced to meet your baby's needs. Adding extra water can change that balance. Make sure to follow the directions on the formula package.

Know your options

If you have a baby who needs formula, this is a stressful time. But you are not alone.

If you can't find your baby's formula, reach out. Your child's provider can help. They can suggest substitutes that will be safe for your baby. And they can help you connect to other resources. Your family and friends can help too. Ask them to check stores in their area for your baby's formula.

You can also shop for formula online. Make sure to buy from safe sources, like reputable pharmacies.

For more information on how to help your baby thrive, check out our Babies health topic center.

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