A topic that elicits strong opinions among parents is what you should be feeding your infant. A major part of this conversation, especially recently, is homemade formula.
Many parents feel that making their own infant formula is healthier or more natural than purchasing it on the baby food aisle. But is it truly better to make your own formula?
Read on to learn why you should avoid making your own formula and how to select the best commercial option.
Is Homemade Baby Formula Healthier?
Ever since the creation of infant formula in the mid-19th century, there has been debate about which ingredients to include for optimal nutrition.
Today, many parents feel that they can create the perfect recipe themselves instead of purchasing a commercial formula. However, pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics Tanya Altmann, MD, FAPP, says not so fast.
Developing a healthy and safe infant formula would take a nutrition scientist with an extensive lab.
Although many parents try to avoid commercial formulas in lieu of something they think is healthier, safer or more natural, it’s important to note that the corporations that create these formulas are required to follow the Infant Formula Act, which was established to safeguard the nutritional health of infants with formulations that include the correct ratio of easily digestible protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Billions of dollars are spent on research and development to ensure that these products also meet the Food and Drug Administration (or FDA) standards for nutrition and safety.
Trouble With Homemade Formula
If you do a quick search online for homemade infant formula, you’ll find myriad recipes, most of which include raw milk, whey, lactose, probiotics, cream gelatin and more.
A typical commercial formula contains three main components that provide infants with exactly what they need: a sugar, fats and proteins. To more closely mimic breast milk, additional nutrients like DHA, probiotics and nucleotides can be added to formula as well.
When parents attempt to make their own formula, there is a very good chance that it will lack the proper nutrition. There is also a chance that the formula could contain harmful bacteria or other germs.
Many recipes call for raw animal milk, which is extremely dangerous for an infant and could lead to a serious or deadly infection. In fact, there are many opportunities for contamination when it comes to the milk base—whether it’s dairy, goat or otherwise.
Goat milk (which is typically used for homemade baby formula) is deficient in folate and is missing the vitamin D infants need.
The probiotic used could also be unsafe. Because infants’ immune systems aren’t fully developed, they’re more prone to getting sick.
For several months after a baby is born, breast milk or formula is the only source of nutrition, making it essential for the development of the immune system.
Why You Should Choose Commercial Formula
While it’s impossible to mirror the nutrients offered by breast milk, commercial formula can come close.
There are many nutrients that infants need—like prebiotics, nucleotides, antioxidants and DHA—that are included commercial formula. Because of this, store-bought formula is a complex product that is difficult to match at home.
It is important to note that commercial formula is regulated by the FDA standards, meaning it must meet federal requirements and must be tested for pathogens prior to being distributed. Each year, the FDA conducts inspections of facilities that manufacture formula, collecting and analyzing samples, to ensure infants are fed safe products.
Other Ways to Keep Your Infant’s Formula Safe
In addition to choosing a commercial formula, there are several things that you can do to make sure it’s safe:
- First, check the expiration date and make sure that the container has no dents, rust spots or leaks.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Follow the instructions on the formula’s label to make sure you’re preparing and storing it correctly.
- Never microwave formula as this can cause it to heat unevenly. Instead, put the bottle inside a container of warm water or run it under a warm tap to heat it evenly.
- You can prepare formula up to 24 hours in advance and store the bottles in the fridge. Any bottle that your infant has started but not finished should be thrown out within an hour.
- Keep bottles and nipples clean by pouring hot, soapy water into the bottle, then rotating a bottle brush inside until it’s clean. Use a nipple brush to wash the nipples.
How to Choose the Right Formula for Your Infant
While breastfeeding is an optimal way for infants to get the nutrients that they need, it may not always be possible. Formula is a good option—but it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose. Here’s where to start:
- Formula made from cow’s milk is recommended first as most babies respond to it very well. An added bonus: It happens to be the least expensive.
- If your infant doesn’t seem to be tolerating cow’s milk, your pediatrician may recommend a formula made from soy milk.
- To help prevent anemia, look for formula that’s fortified with iron unless specifically told not to by your doctor.
If you have questions or concerns about your infant’s formula, consider talking to a medical professional.
Staffed with board-certified physicians, Medical City Children’s Urgent Care is a great option. With four locations throughout the DFW area, each urgent care clinic is made specifically with children in mind.
Be sure to check out our Web Check-In® feature prior to your appointment and wait from the comfort of your home before your visit!