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Fed is best, but definitely not when it comes to homemade baby formula. If your baby is formula fed, then you may be feeling the pressure of this formula shortage, the cost of formula, or maybe the concern about formula recalls. Your baby needs a very specialized diet with the perfect amount of nutrients for proper growth and development. Even adding extra water to stretch your formula could be dangerous. The AAP and FDA are urging parents to only use FDA approved and regulated formulas for their babies.
The internet is riddled with homemade baby formula recipes that seem safe and healthy but because they aren’t regulated or tested for nutritional value, they can lead to serious health and safety concerns. The FDA has recently reported adverse events of hospitalized infants suffering from hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) that have been fed homemade infant formula. Other concerns are contamination and inadequate amounts of critical nutrients, which can lead to life threatening nutritional imbalances and foodborne illnesses.
Other suggestions floating around the internet and social media are watering down formulas to make the cans stretch. Adding extra water may seem harmless, but it decreases and dilutes the nutritional value and may cause growth and development issues. Up until your baby is 6 months old, they should only be offered formula or breastmilk. Offering water can put your baby’s developing stomach and kidneys at risk for nutrient loss and water intoxication. The same risk is present with watered down formulas.
Another common misunderstanding and practice is adding baby cereals like rice or oatmeal to their bottle. This is usually suggested when your baby isn’t sleeping through the night to fill them up. But this is an outdated practice and really does the opposite. Cereals have very little nutritional value, so while you may be making your baby’s belly fill more full you’re actually depriving them of the good fats that come from formula and breastmilk that actually helps them feel full and sleep longer. Adding cereal has other risks as well, such as choking hazards. Because your baby is used to the consistency of their formula, adding the cereal will thicken the liquid which has been known to cause baby’s to aspirate while drinking causing them to choke. Cereals and even baby fruit and veggies are more for the practice of eating and introduction of different foods, but until your baby is 12 months old, formula or breastmilk is still the sole source of nutritional value.
The nutritional needs between a newborn to toddler varies greatly. Using toddler formula for your infant can cause nutritional deficiencies for your baby affecting their growth and development. Toddler formulas are not regulated and reviewed like infant formula so ensuring the label is designed for your baby’s age is extremely important.
With the rise in costs and inflation, all groceries are at a record high including formula. There are resources available if you can’t afford formula.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program is a federal program to support nutritional needs for women and children.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides an electronic benefits transfer card to buy formula. This program can also supplement your WIC benefits if enrolled.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides temporary cash assistance to eligible families.
Not everyone will qualify for these programs, but there are other resources available.
Reach out to your pediatrician. They may have suggestions for safe formulas that are available you can use and sometimes they have samples on hand. Your pediatrician may also have local resources available to you.
Feeding America is a national food bank that can offer assistance with formula, diapers and other baby supplies.
Social Media may have its faults but the support in these times is real. Parenting groups everywhere are keeping their eyes open for formula on shelves and keeping their communities informed on the stores that are stocked.
Dialing 211 or 211.org gives local resources and information on food and support.