Yes, homemade baby formula is a thing – a real big thing! If you search “homemade formula” on You Tube, you’ll get more than 151,000 hits!!! Crazy pants!
I actually understand why so many parents choose to make their own baby formula – because I am the first to admit that commercial baby formulas are not perfect. We all just want the best for our babies!
However, I still prefer that you to go with a commercial formula for a bunch of reasons:
I also did a Happy Hour on this topic, so if you would rather watch instead – here’s the video.
Many of the most popular homemade baby formula “recipes” call for unpasteurized (or raw) cow’s milk as the base. This makes me very nervous for babies! The reason these recipes want you to use raw milk is so all the healthy bacteria (probiotics) are all still alive in the milk. But if healthy bacteria are alive…. Than bad bacteria can also be alive!
In fact, as much as 1/3 of all raw milk contains “pathogens” which are dangerous bacteria that can cause infections (1). These dangerous bacteria can get into the milk 3 ways:
1 – from the cow’s blood if the cow is sick
2 – from an udder infection (this is cow mastitis, which are really common in dairy cows)
3 – from fecal contamination (translation – from the cow’s manure … gross). Remember, in cows, the udder, and the rectum are in pretty close proximity.
4 – From human handling. Yikes!
That’s 4 too many reasons for me to risk it. Also remember that little baby’s intestines and immune systems are not as strong as adults. This means they are even more likely to get sick from raw milk than an adult who drinks the same milk!
But I have another even bigger hesitation. You can’t guarantee that the baby formula recipe you find will actually meet all of your baby’s nutrition needs. There are a LOT of recipes out there, and none of them have been certified. And remember, babies only eat ONE food. So even if the recipe you are using has just a tiny bit too much or a tiny bit too little of a nutrient …. This can result in a dangerous overdose or deficiency pretty quickly.
Now, assuming you’ve got a perfect recipe, and perfectly clean milk to start with…. you still face another big concern. Supplements are not regulated. Baby formula recipes all contain some kind of supplement or vitamin or protein powder to be sure the formula has all the nutrients it needs to. But supplements are not regulated! So you cannot be sure that what is actually in your B-vitamin supplement is really what’s in there! Often times there is more or less than stated on the label. This can result in an overdose or deficiency quickly! Also, there are often fillers or contaminants in supplements that can range from batch to batch. Sensitive babies can react poorly to these things ingredients – ingredients you won’t know are even there!
Commercial baby formula is the safest food available! Because the FDA has special manufacturing and production regulations about infant formula (read more about those here), it’s actually the safest food you can buy! The FDA inspects every formula manufacturer every year and does safety checks on random batches of formula throughout the year. No other food gets tested for safety this much … including any ingredients you would have to buy to make your own formula.
I’ve had several colleagues share stories where they treated an infant who was not growing well, or had become very sick. It turns out, the baby was being fed homemade infant formula that was deficient in a major mineral, making the baby very ill. Thankfully, this problem was easily fixed and all these babies ended up being fine. But the situation still scares me, which is why I can’t recommend any homemade formulas. There are just too many factors that are out of your control as a parent.
However, that is just my opinion! My goal is always to share the information with you so that you can make your own educated decisions. You are the expert on your own baby!
If you DO decide to DIY your own formula – my advice is this: Do your homework and research!
- Verify that the recipe you choose is nutritionally adequate for all vitamins and minerals
- Research your ingredients’ suppliers: Do research into the companies that sell each ingredient you buy, so that you are confident you’re actually getting what you think you are!
- Know your farmer: If you choose a dairy or liver-based recipe – please get your animal products from a trustworthy farmer who can assure you of the animals’ conditions and the handling of the milk/meat before it gets to you.
- Tell you doctor. Even if your doctor disagrees with your choice, it’s still important he/she know.
I hope that helpful and provides some clarity!
Happy baby snuggles to you,
1) Lucey J. Raw Milk Consumption: Risks and Benefits. Nutrition and Food Science. 2015; 50 (4): 189-193.
What’s your opinion on DIY formula? Let me know in the comments below.