As the baby formula shortage continues, increasingly desperate parents are looking for answers on what to do when they can’t find the formula they need. One trend that concerns healthcare professionals and regulators is that people are making their own formula. the Food and drug administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics warned against its use, citing a lack of a balanced diet and the risk of harming babies. News reports report babies hospitalized for drinking home made or diluted preparation, as parents struggle to find the products they typically use to feed their babies. But that hasn’t stopped the recipes from popping up all over social media, where they attract a huge number of views and likes.
On TikTok, a recipe made with hemp seeds, sea moss and medjool dates has been viewed more than 10,000 times. In the comments, users ask the original poster, who doesn’t claim to be a medical professional, for advice on introducing sea moss to a baby who has never had it before. A beautiful blonde TikToker with 16,000 followers has posted a video where she holds a baby on her hip while she explains that she prepares her bottle with formula she made “from scratch”. The recipe she uses calls for raw milk – which the regulations agencies advises against drinking due to risk of pathogens – and comes from the holistic nutrition group at the Weston A. Price Foundation, which also shared misinformation on the Covid-19 vaccine. (The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its formula recipe. This article will be updated if so.)
A video suggesting a mixture of Carnation evaporated milk, Karo syrup, baby vitamins and distilled water has been viewed 860,000 times. Another video on evaporated milk and corn syrup has had over 120,000 views. The combination is one of the most popular recipes bouncing around on social platforms, with many users claiming it’s how they or their parents were fed, before the modern formula was introduced.
Steven Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, agrees that many infants were fed evaporated milk recipes before formula became the norm, but that doesn’t mean people should use this method today. “Most of them did well, but most of them aren’t good enough,” he says. “It’s definitely not sure. Just because most 50s babies were raised there doesn’t mean we want to go back to what was an inadequate way of feeding 50s babies. The fact that your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother mother survived does not mean your child will.
Abrams recently wrote guidelines for the American Academy of Pediatrics, telling parents that if they have to, they can feed a baby over six months old cow’s milk for a short time, if they can’t find any type of formula in stores. “The idea is that from six months cow’s milk is not ideal, but for non-allergic babies it’s really not dangerous and it’s better than homemade formulas,” says- he. “When you make a homemade formula, you mix a lot of things together, and so you run the risk of contamination, and you run the risk of going wrong with even the most basic nutrition.” Abrams adds that breast milk banks affiliated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which typically send their supplies to NICUs to help preemies, have seen an increase in donations. Some may be able to help parents in need by providing them with pasteurized breast milk.
Carla Cevasco, an assistant professor of American studies at Rutgers University and an infant food historian, recently published a Twitter feed explaining that before formula milk was invented, many babies who couldn’t breastfeed died because the other options were either unsafe or nutritionally incomplete. “People have always needed alternatives [to breastfeeding,]she says. “It’s just a fairly recent phenomenon that these alternatives are safe.”
Additionally, Cevasco points out that just because a recipe was popular a long time ago doesn’t mean it’s safe. “Talking about the whole phenomenon of recreating recipes from the past, sometimes they’re disgusting and sometimes they’re actually dangerous,” she says. “When I look at cookbooks from the 17th and 18th centuries, there’s a lot of stuff in there that looks like you, ooh boy, botulism. Seen from the perspective of modern food safety standards, it is like salmonella in a glass. So I think it’s really important to listen to the advice of medical professionals on the best next steps to take.
Juli Novotny, who runs plant-based recipe blog Pure Kitchen, sees no problem sharing information about homemade formulas with parents in need. Novotny posted a formula recipe for his 6,700 Instagram followers last week that got about 250 likes. It includes goat’s milk, carrot juice, flaxseed oil and nutritional yeast. She says she gave the recipe to her own baby at the time, who is now 14 healthy. As she watched people struggle with formula shortages, she felt it was her responsibility to share the formula alternative that worked for her. “I’m not trying to play doctor,” she says. “I’m not saying people should do that in general. I am not promoting this. I’m not telling people they shouldn’t have formula. I mind my business. I just thought if they couldn’t get formula, if you could feed your baby something and it worked for someone, I don’t understand why it would be a controversy.
Allie Seckel, a certified infant feeding technician who goes by the name Formula Fairy on social media, says it’s just never safe to make formula yourself. She recently posted several videos on TikTok discouraging parents from trying DIY formulas and debunking myths about scarcity. “Babies have very specific needs,” she says. “The formula requires minimum levels of 29 nutrients, and then nine of them also have maximum levels. There really is no way to duplicate these nutritional needs at home. And then there are the food safety issues. “There are issues with sterility and bacterial contamination,” she says. “So you have to worry about that too, especially if you’re using raw milk.”
Malori, a farmer who runs the Black Rifle Homestead account and who asked to only use her first name, as she does on social media, says she would never use an evaporated milk recipe, and she understands why. medical professionals would advise against them. But, she also thinks officials are painting with too wide a brush when they say not to use any homemade formula. A few days ago, Malori posted an affiliate post for a formula kit sold by a goat dairy, which claims to offer the first such product to meet federal nutrient requirements for infant formula. She currently uses to feed her second child.
Experts say that’s playing with fire. According to Abrams, even though it seems like all the nutrients are sufficient in a homemade formula, there could be other issues with feeding an infant. “They may seem like they have the right amount of nutrients, but their mix may not be absorbable by the baby,” he says. “Or some of the sources may not be sterile enough for babies, so that’s just not the way to go. People keep telling me, well, for a short time, just mix it up at home, and I won’t.
Novotny, the food blogger, agrees that people should consult with someone in the health or nutrition field before trying her carrot juice and goat’s milk formula, but she still sees nothing wrong with it. publish it publicly. “I don’t share as a medical professional,” she says. “I’m just sharing a recipe.”