Tag: baby formula

What’s Wrong with Homemade Baby Formula?

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?

Not necessarily.

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.

Before commercial baby formula was widely available, public health nurses had to sometimes teach new moms how to make their own formula.
Before commercial baby formula was widely available, public health nurses had to sometimes teach new moms how to make their own baby formula.

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
  • fats
  • proteins

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?

While it might make you feel better to feed your baby goat milk, it won't make your baby feel any better, and could make them sick...
While it might make you feel better to feed your baby goat milk, it won’t make your baby feel any better, and could make them sick… (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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
  • probiotics

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.

What’s missing?

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.

So just like skipping your RhoGAM shot, skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot and delaying or skipping vaccines, you will have some very big risks and absolutely no health benefits.

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

Treating Hard to Control Reflux

Acid reflux is common, especially for newborns and infants.

Many parents are surprised to know that reflux can affect older kids too though. Fortunately, reflux is temporary for most of these kids and can be easily treated.

It can be even easier to treat younger kids, most of whom don’t need any treatment if they are just messy and don’t have true acid reflux disease.

Happy Spitters and Reflux Symptoms

Children who spit up have acid reflux or more specifically gastroesophageal reflux (GER).

Many babies spit up or have reflux.
Many babies spit up or have reflux, but most are just “happy spitters” and don’t need treatment. Photo by Ryan Dickey (CC BY 2.0)

They may not have acid reflux disease though (GERD), with other associated signs and symptoms, such as:

  • refusing to eat
  • recurrent vomiting
  • weight loss or poor weight gain (failure to thrive)
  • irritability or trouble sleeping
  • respiratory symptoms, such as a chronic cough, hoarse voice or cry, or hard to control asthma, etc.
  • Sandifer syndrome – reflux plus head tilting and back arching

Without any of these symptoms, your baby who spits up, even if it is very frequent and it seems like they spit up a large amount each time, is likely what is classically called a “happy spitter.” If they are just messy, they don’t need any treatment and you can wait until they outgrow their reflux.

Remember – “Spit Happens.”

Older children with acid reflux might complain of heartburn, chest pain, or say that they have a sour taste in their mouth (sour burps).

Lifestyle Changes for Reflux

Once you recognize that your child has GERD and needs to be treated, you might start with these lifestyle changes:

  • avoiding milk and dairy products for two to four weeks if you are breastfeeding an infant with GERD
  • changing baby formula to an extensively hydrolyzed protein (Nutramigen, Gerber Extensive HA, Alimentum) or amino acid–based infant formula if your formula fed baby has GERD
  • thickening your baby’s formula (typically about one tablespoon of rice cereal per every one to two ounces of formula) vs switching to a baby formula for reflux (Enfamil AR or Similac Sensitive R.S.)
  • making sure you aren’t overfeeding your baby, including that you don’t re-feed your baby right after they spit up
  • avoiding seated and supine (on his back) positions after feedings, although you shouldn’t put your baby down prone (on his stomach) if he is going to fall asleep (risk factor for SIDS)
  • helping older children with acid reflux lose weight if they are overweight and making sure they don’t smoke or drink alcohol
  • encouraging older children to avoid acid reflux triggers, especially caffeine, chocolate, foods with acid, and spicy foods

When can you expect your infant’s reflux to go away? In most babies, reflux symptoms peak at about 4 months and go away by the time they are 12 to 18 months old. In older children, reflux symptoms generally go away after a few months of appropriate treatment.

Acid Reflux Medicines

If lifestyle changes aren’t working, your child with reflux likely needs medicine to treat his reflux.

These acid reflux medications include:

  • antacids – may be okay in older children with very rare symptoms, but not for routine use
  • histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) – such as Zantac (ranitidine) – works quickly, but may stop working over time (tachyphylaxis)
  • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – such as Prevacid (over-the-counter for adults) and Nexium (Nexium packets are FDA approved for infants) – considered more potent and superior to H2RAs but may take up to four days to start working
  • prokinetic agents – rarely used because of side-effects

In general, if your child’s symptoms improve or go away within two weeks of taking an acid reflux medication, then you should likely continue it for at least two to three months.

Treating Hard to Control Reflux

What do you do when lifestyle changes and reflux medicines don’t work or symptoms return after you stop your child’s reflux medicine?

First, make sure you are giving the right medicine, the right dosage of medicine, and are giving it at the right time, keeping in mind that PPIs should be giving 30 minutes before a meal.

Next, consider if there are any other lifestyle changes that you can try. For example, you might encourage your older child with persistent reflux to eat smaller meals more frequently, avoid a bedtime snack, and you may even elevate the head of his bed by about 30 degrees.

Lastly, you might make sure that your child really does have reflux.

Just because your baby is fussy and wakes up a lot at night, it doesn’t automatically mean that he has reflux. It could instead be colic, or be related to a food intolerance or allergy, with breastfeeding mothers needing to go on a more restrictive diet or infants drinking a hydrolyzed formula might need to switch to an elemental formula (Elecare, Neocate, or PurAmino).

Older kids with difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), which is often blamed on acid reflux, might have post-nasal drip caused by allergies or a sinus infection, etc.

And even if truly spitting up, instead of GERD, a child might have any number of other conditions instead of GERD, from an intestinal obstruction to a metabolic disorder.

It is usually at this point, when classic acid reflux treatments aren’t working, that a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist would be a good idea.

What To Know About Acid Reflux

Acid reflux in kids is usually temporary and can often be controlled with lifestyle changes and medications, but unfortunately, acid reflux symptoms are not always caused by reflux, leading to some treatment failures.

For More Information on Acid Reflux