Homemade Baby Formula

Some parents may consider making homemade baby formula because of baby formula shortages or high costs. But the FDA and American Academy of Pediatrics advise against making your own baby formula at home because it may cause nutrient deficiencies and other serious problems in infants.

Last Modified: September 8, 2022
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What Is Homemade Baby Formula?

Homemade baby formula is do-it-yourself baby formula that parents and caregivers make at home, often using vintage recipes or those they find on the internet. These recipes may call for store-bought milk from cows or goats, oils, corn syrup and other ingredients.

Parents may decide to make their own formula because of baby formula shortages, formula costs, baby formula recalls or side effects in reaction to store-bought formulas.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical experts warn that feeding your baby homemade formula could cause serious harm that could lead to developmental issues, severe illnesses and hospitalization.

Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?

Homemade baby formulas — especially those made from store-bought milk or milk substitutes such as soy or almond milk — are not safe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Feeding babies store-bought milk products may have been common decades ago, but it’s not safe or recommended.

Safety issues with homemade baby formula include nutrient deficiencies, nutrient excesses and contamination that may lead to serious illnesses that can be life-threatening.

Potential dangers of homemade baby formula include:
Nutrient Deficiencies:
Homemade baby formula may not have all the nutrients babies need to develop and stay healthy. Potential issues include: Calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia), missing vitamins, lack of protein and iron. The absence of key nutrients can lead to malnutrition, anemia, seizures, developmental issues, hospitalization and other serious illnesses.
Nutrient Excesses:
Homemade baby formula may contain more nutrients and vitamins than a baby’s body can properly process. For example, too much protein or salt can strain a baby’s delicate kidneys and liver. These nutrients may also interact with each other or be improperly absorbed.
Salmonella, E. Coli and Other Contaminants:
Making baby formula at home increases the risk of contamination from bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella and other organisms. The risk increases when using raw or unpasteurized milk. These bacteria can cause serious and even fatal infections in infants, especially babies with weaker immune systems.

Social media influencers and bloggers sharing recipes online claim that these homemade baby formula recipes are good substitutes for expensive or hard-to-find store-bought formulas. These include vintage recipes using evaporated milk and corn syrup that users argue were how babies were fed in the 1950s. This doesn’t mean it’s recommended or safe.

“It’s just flat-out not safe. The fact that most babies in the ’50s were raised on it doesn’t mean that we want to go back to what was an inadequate way to feed babies from the 1950s. The fact that your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother survived on it doesn’t mean that your child will,” Steven Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, told Rolling Stone magazine.

Lawsuit Information
Lawsuits are being filed by parents whose children were diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after consuming cow's milk-based formula. Learn more.
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FDA Warns Parents Not to Use Homemade Baby Formula

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics warn parents not to feed homemade baby formula to infants. These online recipes haven’t been evaluated by the FDA, and the agency has received reports of infants who have been hospitalized after being fed homemade formula.

Store-bought baby formula sold in the U.S. is strictly regulated to make sure it provides the right nutrition babies need to thrive and develop. It’s almost impossible to make baby formula at home that matches the standards of store-bought baby formulas that are intended to be a baby’s sole source of nutrition.

“The agency has received reports of hospitalized babies who had been fed homemade infant formula and then suffered from hypocalcemia (low calcium). Other potential problems with homemade formulas include contamination and absence of, or inadequate amounts of, critical nutrients.”

Pediatricians and other experts are calling on social media platforms to help combat the spread of misinformation about homemade baby formula. Some social media posts sharing homemade baby formula recipes have reached hundreds of thousands of people.

Because of the baby formula shortage, some hospitals, such as Children’s Wisconsin, are seeing greater numbers of babies because of homemade formula. These babies suffer from malnutrition and other issues.

What Types of Nutrition Are Safe for Babies?

Experts agree that breastfeeding is the best and safest nutrition for babies, but the next best choice is store-bought baby formula that has been approved by the FDA. The FDA also warns against watering down formula to make it last longer. Not following the exact measurements on the baby formula label can lead to malnutrition.

If parents or caregivers have a difficult time getting formula, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some tips for dealing with the shortage.

Tips for feeding your baby if you can’t get formula:
  • Pasteurized donor breast milk from a member bank of the Human Milk Banking Association of America
  • Food banks
  • Sample formulas from pediatricians
  • Switching to baby formulas
  • Babies 6 months or older may be able to switch to solid foods or cow’s milk

Before switching your baby’s formula, make sure to consult your child’s medical provider. For example, babies with special needs will need specific formulas or fortified breast milk. If you have a preemie, cow’s-milk baby formula may increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called necrotizing enterocolitis.

NEC causes intestinal inflammation and tissue death. It’s more common in premature babies fed cow’s-milk baby formula than those who are breastfed. Some parents have filed lawsuits against baby formula manufacturers for not warning them of the risk.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.