An FDA spokesperson said the agency received reports of infants diagnosed with hypocalcemia, a rare condition that occurs when there is low calcium in the blood.
“This is the first public health alert the FDA has issued about homemade infant formula. However, since 2006, the FDA has stated that the agency does not recommend that consumers make infant formulas at home because of potentially very serious health concerns,” said the FDA spokesperson.
While some parents may feel that creating their own baby formula is healthier than store-bought, the FDA says it could do more harm than good.
Doctors agree and say this can cause malnutrition.
“It is not safe,” said Dr. Lisa Gaw, a pediatrician with Texas Children’s Urgent Care in Austin. “There’s contamination leading to infection and illness risk, and then there is a risk that your child may not be getting everything that he or she needs.”
Store-bought formulas that come in liquid and powder form are heavily regulated by the FDA. This ensures growing infants have all the nutrients they need.
“The agency has requirements for certain nutrients in infant formulas, and if the formula does not contain these nutrients at or above the minimum level or within the specified range, the infant formula is adulterated,” said the FDA alert.
While formula is made to be easily digestible for infants, homemade formulas can include ingredients that are harmful for babies’ digestive systems.
Some online recipes use ingredients like cow’s milk, sugar and egg yolks.
Gaw said babies should be fed breast milk or FDA-approved formulas.
“When they are this young their bodies are still developing and the way they process things are a little different than say a one-year-old toddler,” Dr. Gaw explained. “Too little or too much of any nutrient, whether it’s vitamin or mineral, can be harmful to an infant in the age group. They’re still developing.”
Over the last few months, nonprofits said they have seen a spike in families needing baby products. One item that is requested is baby formula, but it is donated less often.
PATH is an East Texas nonprofit social services agency.
“Some of the donations may be one brand but the families that are coming to the pantry looking for a certain brand, we don’t have it,” said PATH Operations Manager Michael Vasquez.
Other Texas nonprofits like the Austin Diaper Bank said they also noticed a higher demand for formula.
“We’ve seen a 25% increase just especially in the last few weeks because of the winter storms,” Holly McDaniel, Executive Director, Austin Diaper Bank said. “Families were without water, there were a lot of issues of getting to the store, and also we’re just seeing poverty rates increase because of the pandemic and loss of income and jobs and formula can be really expensive.”
Both organizations said the only baby formula they accept is unopened packages that are not expired.