Why you should never make your own baby formula

If you Google “homemade formula recipe”, you’ll get hundreds of results. Pinterest is also full of boards of homemade recipes, with ingredients ranging from bone broth and coconut oil to cod liver oil and goat’s milk.

While it might be tempting to opt for something “natural”, convenient, “healthy” and affordable, doctors strongly advise against making your own concoction at home, no matter what recipe you use.

Nutritional needs: can homemade formula match these?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that babies have very specific nutritional needs that can’t be catered to in a homemade formula. Babies need a specific balance of fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamin and minerals for their physical and mental growth and development. Homemade formula, no matter how good the ingredients are, will unlikely supply a baby with exactly what they need.

Formula companies spend a huge amount of money, time, research and science into making formula that’s as nutritiously close to breast milk as possible, and that’s safe and made according to guidelines. The chance of duplicating something that is safe and nutritious in a home environment is impossible.

Some homemade formula might not have enough vitamins or iron, while others might have ingredients that your baby cannot digest in large amounts.

There’s a possibility that they might get too little of something, or too much of something else, which can be detrimental to their development. An improper balance of nutrients can lead to excessive weight gain, malnourishment, and even health complications.

“Some homemade formula might not have enough vitamins or iron, while others might have ingredients that your baby cannot digest in large amounts.”

Risk of contamination

Formula is made and stored according to strict guidelines to prevent contamination during storage. When you follow a recipe, even if your hands are clean and the equipment sterilised, there is still a major risk of contamination, which can cause infection and illness.

Beware of certain ingredients

Many homemade formula recipes call for ingredients such as cow’s milk, soy milk or almond milk, which don’t have sufficient protein, iron and vitamins for babies. Some recipes also call for unpasteurised cow’s milk or goat’s milk, which are unsafe for consumption in babies and even adults as they could contain bacteria such as E. coli and listeria, which could lead to dangerous infections.

Breast milk is made up of proteins, fat, minerals and carbohydrates (of which are mainly lactose). For healthy babies, you want a formula that has ingredients as close to breast milk as possible (example Novalac and NAN) which is high in lactose and doesn’t contain sucrose.

The bottom line

While you might have the best of intentions to lovingly make your baby formula at home, it’s not advisable at all. If you’re in doubt, please chat to your paediatrician and try to follow the science that best supports your baby’s nutritional needs.

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