As people grapple with America’s infant formula shortage, some social media users have started sharing homemade recipes, telling frantic parents who can’t find food for their babies that they can make their own formula instead.
One post claimed, falsely, that the “shortage is manufactured” and then went on to say that people could use raw goat’s milk or make her friend’s homemade recipe. Another offered a recipe with cow’s milk, whey and a variety of oils, saying homemade formula can be a “viable option when you do it correctly.” And another offered up a tattered 1960s recipe card that called for giving the baby two level tablespoons of Karo corn syrup.
Feeding babies homemade formula — no matter how legitimate or questionable the recipe may appear — is dangerous and not recommended as an alternative to store-bought formula.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The US Food and Drug Administration advises against making formula and says consuming homemade formula can result in adverse health effects for infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics also strongly advises against homemade formulas, saying they are not safe and do not meet babies’ nutritional needs.
The shortage of infant formula has been attributed to COVID-19 related supply chain issues, inflation, and a February 2022 product recall by Abbott, a major US manufacturer of baby food, that temporarily halted production at its Sturgis, Michigan plant.
The White House recently announced steps intended to ease the shortage, including making it easier to import formula and cracking down on price gouging. The FDA is also expediting and streamlining some of its processes in an effort to address the shortage.
Following cases in 2021 of hospitalized infants suffering from low calcium after being fed homemade formula, the FDA reported that potential problems with homemade versions include contamination and inadequate amounts of critical nutrients.
“These problems are very serious, and the consequences range from severe nutritional imbalances to foodborne illnesses, both of which can be life-threatening,” the agency said.
Homemade formulas may not provide enough of some nutrients, or they can contain too-large quantities of others, which is equally dangerous.
For example, homemade formula might have too much salt, which infants’ kidneys and livers cannot handle in large amounts, wrote Dr. Steven Abrams, chair of the National Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a May 9 blog post.
“If your baby doesn’t get enough of the important parts of infant formula — even for a few days or weeks — they can suffer long-term effects on their abilities to grow strong and do well in school,” Abrams said. “Lack of these nutrients can lead to severe health problems and even death. Homemade formulas may also lead to risks of contamination, causing infections or may even cause serious problems with high or low levels of minerals like calcium or electrolytes such as sodium.”
Commercial infant formulas, on the other hand, “are designed to mimic human breast milk as closely as possible, and are carefully regulated to make sure they have the nutrients growing babies need — in a form their bodies can process,” the New York Times reported.
Social media users are sharing homemade infant formula recipes amid the shortage and are claiming that homemade formula is safe.
Pediatricians and organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and FDA all advise against making and feeding homemade baby formula to infants. These recipes can rob babies of essential nutrients needed for development and may also lead to risks of contamination and infection.
Such recipes aren’t considered safe and should not replace store-bought formula. We rate posts stating otherwise False.