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'No substitute for formula:' Pediatricians warn against homemade formula recipes

Amid a national infant formula shortage, photos of dated home infant formula recipes are inundating social media.

YORK, Pa. — Amid a national infant formula shortage, photos of 20th century home infant formula recipes are inundating social media.

Pediatricians warn parents against trying them.

“Formula today has many different nutrients that really cannot be duplicated with home recipes,” said Dr. Christopher Russo, director of pediatrics at WellSpan Health.

“Infant formulas are a very fine balance between fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that is designed for underdeveloped kidneys and the nutritional needs of a baby,” said Dr. Pia Fenamore, chief of general pediatrics at Lancaster General Hospital. “That is a very, very difficult thing to meet with a homemade formula.”

Also not recommended: adding water to formula to stretch it out longer, or using store-bought milk of any kind, experts say.

The homemade formula recipe posts come as some parents worry to the point of panic about finding formula to feed their infants.

“I am seeing some anxiety among parents who are worried, ‘Will I be able to get formula?’” Russo said.

Pennsylvania’s infant formula stocks are down by nearly half, similar to the national average out-of-stock rate of 43 percent.

The shortage is even affecting hospitals caring for ill newborns, as some of the recalled formulas were made for infants with specific medical issues. Some are turning to human milk banks to fill the gaps.

“Because of the formula shortage the neonatal intensive care units are relying more heavily on donor milk than they usually do,” said Denise O’Connor, lactation specialist and executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank.

O’Connor said the milk bank has enough stock to cover hospitals. But due to the extensive safety standards of donor breast milk—like testing the blood of donors and pasteurizing the milk—donor milk is not a viable solution to the formula shortage.

Pediatricians said parents’ best bet to finding formula is to try a few stores, and if necessary, a different formula.

“There is formula out there. They may have to look a little bit harder than usual. If they find something most likely they can use it, but if they have any questions they should check with their pediatrician,” Fenamore said.

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