Once upon a time, before we had commercial baby formula, didn’t everyone make their own homemade baby formula if they couldn’t breastfeed or were separated from their baby?
Some parents hired a wet nurse and others simply fed their baby wheat containing porridge or milk from camels, cows, goats, or even pigs. Of course, wet nursing was the safest option by far.
History of Homemade Baby Formula
There were recipes for ‘baby formula’ though, which often “consisted of a liquid ingredient (milk, beer, wine, vegetable or meat stock, water), a cereal (rice, wheat or corn flour, bread) and additives (sugar, honey, herbs or spices, eggs, meat).” These recipes were missing foods with vitamin C and were later missing vitamin D, iron, and protein, as they were mixed with more water and less meat and eggs.
Fortunately, there were several major breakthroughs in the mid-nineteenth century that offered hope to babies who couldn’t breastfeed, including the invention of the rubber nipple and other feeding devices, improved methods of hygiene and later pasteurization, and the first commercial baby formula.
Many of the first baby formulas basically looked like homemade recipes, such as the Leibig formula – a powder made up of wheat flour, malt, and potassium bicarbonate that was added to diluted cow’s milk. Later, there were recipes to make baby formula from condensed and then evaporated milk (mixed with corn syrup).
And eventually, in the 1950s, we got the commercial baby formulas that we still use today.
What’s in Baby Formula
Like breastmilk, baby formula has three main components that provide the calories:
- a sugar
Different combinations of these proteins (cow’s milk vs soy), sugar (lactose vs corn syrup), and fats (vegetable oils), etc., help produce cow’s milk based, soy based, and elemental baby formulas.
And then, to make it more like breastmilk, lots of other stuff can be added to baby formula, including DHA, probiotics, and nucleotides, etc.
Enspire, the newest formula from Mead Johnson, also adds lactoferrin, Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM), and prebiotics, to try and make it their “closest formula ever to breast milk.”
What’s Not in Baby Formula
Are you still confused about what’s in your baby’s formula?
It’s possible that you are just confused about what you think is in your baby’s formula?
Kristin Cavallari has written that she made her own homemade baby formula because “I would rather feed my baby these real, organic ingredients than a heavily processed store-bought formula that contains ‘glucose syrup solids,’ which is another name for corn syrup solids, maltodextrin, carrageenan, and palm oil.”
So what are glucose syrup solids and why are they in your baby’s formula?
While cow’s milk based baby formulas use lactose (glucose plus galactose) as their source of sugar, non-milk based formulas usually use use sucrose (cane sugar) and corn syrup solids (glucose).
Should you worry about cane sugar in some organic formulas?
What about the corn syrup in formula? Isn’t that bad for them?
No. These are just different types of sugar. Even maltodextrin is simply glucose polymers made from corn starch that is used as a thickening agent in baby formula and other foods.
And no, corn syrup solids don’t have anything to do with high fructose corn syrup.
Goat Milk Formula
In addition to warning about making homemade formula, pediatricians have long warned about feeding baby’s goat milk and goat milk based baby formula.
Goat milk is very high in sodium and protein, giving almost three times the amounts present in breast milk. And cross-reactivity that occurs between proteins means that babies who are sensitive or allergic to cow’s milk will likely have problems with goat milk too.
“It is recommended that formula-fed infants who are allergic to milk use an extensively hydrolyzed, casein-based formula. This type of formula contains protein that has been extensively broken down so it is different than milk protein and not as likely to cause an allergic reaction.”
FARE on Formula for Infants with a Milk Allergy
Of course, that doesn’t keep folks from pushing “false and potentially dangerous information” about what some think are benefits of goat milk for infants.
What’s Wrong with Homemade Baby Formula?
In her latest book, Kristin Cavallari, known for dangerous stance against vaccines, even offers a recipe for a goat’s milk baby formula that is made with:
- filtered water
- goat milk powder
- pure organic maple syrup – provides calories from sugar
- extra virgin olive oil – provides calories and monounsaturated fats
- unflavored cod-liver oil – for extra vitamin D and vitamin A
- unsulfured blackstrap molasses – for extra iron and calcium
- coconut oil – for omega-6-fatty acids
In this homemade formula, much of the sugar, protein, and fat and half of the calories comes from goat milk.
The majority of the sugar comes from the maple syrup though, which is just sucrose. Just like the sucrose from cane sugar that folks complain about in some organic formulas.
Extra fat comes from the olive oil.
What about the other ingredients?
They provide extra vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron.
This homemade formula seems to be missing folate. Goat milk is deficient in folate and can lead to megaloblastic anemia and it is one of the main reasons babies should avoid unfortified goat milk.
And it is missing enough vitamin D to avoid vitamin D deficiency.
Cavallari’s recipe seems to add just 100IU of vitamin D to the whole 32 ounce batch (from the cod liver oil). That’s just 10IU per 100ml, about 6 times less than baby formula. Keep in mind that it is recommended that infants get at least 400IU of vitamin D each day.
Remember that formula is fortified with vitamin D and breastfeeding babies are supposed to take a vitamin D supplement. Depending on your water filter, this homemade baby formula recipe might also be missing fluoride, which infants start to need beginning at around six months.
Can You Find a Safe Homemade Baby Formula Recipe?
You probably can, especially if you use a full fat milk powder that has been pasteurized and fortified with vitamin D and folic acid and the right combination of other ingredients to get enough calories, protein, fat, sugar, and all of the essential vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to gain weight and development normally.
“FDA regulates commercially available infant formulas, which are marketed in liquid and powder forms, but does not regulate recipes for homemade formulas. Great care must be given to the decision to make infant formulas at home, and safety should be of prime concern. The potential problems associated with errors in selecting and combining the ingredients for the formula are very serious and range from severe nutritional imbalances to unsafe products that can harm infants. Because of these potentially very serious health concerns, FDA does not recommend that consumers make infant formulas at home.”
FDA Questions & Answers for Consumers Concerning Infant Formula
You will almost certainly have to give your baby a multi-vitamin each day too.
Also, you will have to make sure you are mixing all of the ingredients of your recipe correctly and safely, so that you don’t contaminate any of the batches.
But it still won’t be any better for your baby than store bought formula.
What to Know About Homemade Baby Formula
Stick to breastmilk or an iron fortified baby formula until your baby is at least twelve months old. There are no benefits to feeding your baby a homemade baby formula and there are certainly some risks. Those risks go up even more if you use raw goat milk or leave out key nutrients.
More About Homemade Baby Formula
- There’s Nothing Sinister Lurking in That Baby Formula
- Please Don’t Feed Your Baby Homemade Formula!
- Why is Kristin Cavallari feeding her baby milk from an animal that eats garbage?
- People Magazine Removes Article with Kristin Cavallari’s Unsafe Recipe for Goat’s Milk Baby Formula
- FDA – Questions & Answers for Consumers Concerning Infant Formula
- FDA – Food Safety for Moms to Be: Once Baby Arrives
- Homemade infant formula is not a good idea
- FDA – The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk
- FARE – Milk Allergy
- Dairy Alternatives for Kids Who Won’t – or Can’t – Drink Milk
- Study – Fresh goat’s milk for infants: myths and realities–a review.
- Study – The history of infant nutrition.
Last Updated on August 30, 2017 by Vincent Iannelli, MD