Ask Dr. Marla: Why homemade formula isn't safe

By Dr. Marla Shapiro, Family physician and editor of ParentsCanada on April 15, 2015

  

Question

I read that some parents are starting to make their own formula. Is that safe?

Answer

I think we all agree that the best so-called homemade formula is breast milk. Health Canada and other experts strongly support breastfeeding and promote it as the best method of feeding infants for normal growth, health and development. Breastfeeding is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and young children. Breastfeeding is the normal and unequalled method for feeding infants and it is recognised internationally by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

However, for babies who are not breastfed or receiving breast milk, Health Canada recommends only commercial infant formula as a substitute. It has come to Health Canada’s attention that there is a proliferation of recipes on the Internet about homemade infant formulas. In addition, there are some practitioners who encourage parents to try homemade formula.Recently, Health Canada issued an advisory regarding the promotion of homemade infant formulas on the Internet and by some practitioners that provide advice about health.

Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Dietitians of Canada do not endorse the use of any homemade infant formulas.

Why would that be?

The reason has to do with nutrition and safety. Homemade infant formulas may not provide the proper balance of nutrients that infants need and that is because, despite the best intentions, homemade infant formulas can cause severe malnutrition and potentially fatal illness in infants.

The concerns are also that homemade evaporated milk formula, cow milk, goat milk, soy beverage, rice beverage or any other beverages should not be given to young infants.

All commercial infant formulas must undergo a full safety and nutritional quality assessment by Health Canada before they can be sold, with the provision of scientific evidence that their products support healthy growth in infants and do not pose chemical or microbiological risks. Regulated formulas must meet standards for the nutritional content of infant formulas which include energy, protein, fats, vitamins and mineral nutrients.

Remember, that just because something is on the Internet, it does not mean the advice is safe and sound. Homemade formulas may not provide the proper balance of nutrients that infants need and may also contain ingredients or be prepared in a manner that can result in contamination by harmful bacteria that cause serious illness.

It is important to be aware of the potential health and safety risks associated with consuming homemade infant formulas as alternatives to highly-regulated, commercially available infant formulas.

 

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2015.


By Dr. Marla Shapiro, Family physician and editor of ParentsCanada| April 15, 2015

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