CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A baby formula shortage pushed some parents to think outside of the box to keep their newborns fed. Pediatricians say the shortage is concerning but some of the advice and supposed workarounds circulating on the internet are even more worrisome.
Some parents have turned to trying their hand at homemade baby formula in a desperate attempt to keep a readily available supply.
Every nutrient in formula is packed in there for a reason, said OSF midwife Kelli Daughtery, and re-creating that is not possible at home. Any deviation from the real thing could mean an electrolyte imbalance for the baby, she said.
“The FDA does not recommend this, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend this. That’s actually really dangerous for babies,” Daughtery added.
“That can affect their kidneys, their brain, all of their organs.”
The homemade “1960s recipe” taking hold on the internet — and any other homemade concoction — comes with a “large risk of infection” because a typical home kitchen is significantly less sterile than the environment store-bought formula is made in, according to Carle pediatrician Molly Jonna.
“And it can be very difficult to get the correct amount of nutrients that babies need. We have seen babies hospitalized who have had homade formula,” Jonna said.
Jonna and Daughtery have also been hearing that parents have resorted to watering down baby formula to make it last.
“Never water down formula,” Jonna said plainly.
There are breast milk dispensaries in central Illinois, including one located within Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Amid the nationwide shortage, “we actually have not seen much of an increase in demand for the dispensary milk,” said C-UPHD community nutrition program coordinator Valerie Koress.
Karess attributed that, in part, to the cost of the donated breast milk which runs about $20 per 4 oz.
Regardless, it’s likely not an option for families already using formula.
“It’s unrealistic to expect that they’d be able to breastfeed,” Jonna said referring to mothers who strictly rely on formula by choice or necessity.
“If we’re talking about, it’s just been a couple of weeks maybe since birth or since baby’s been weaned, probably going to be able to relactate without much trouble. If it’s been several months, probably not,” Daughtery added.
The best solution, according to the experts, would be to substitute the unavailable formula brand for another with the same or similar ingredients. Jonna said that decision should be made with a pediatrician, and she says she’s been able to find an available alternative for her patients in every case so far.
“Not convenient but there has been a solution so far, yes,” she concluded.
Baby formula maker Abbott announced an agreement with U.S. health regulators Monday to restart production at its largest American factory. A recall halted production earlier this year which was a big factor in the shortage still apparent on the shelves.