Special Edition – Homemade Infant Formula

This special edition looks at the baby formula recipes making the rounds on the Internet.

What is infant formula? 

Infant formula (aka, baby formula, formula) is a specialized food designed to replicate or replace the nutrients found in breast milk.

It's designed, manufactured, and regulated for daily consumption to fulfill all of a baby's nutritional needs (1).Subscribe for weekly updates_ go.msu.edu/cris-connect

Are there different types of infant formula?

There are many different types of infant formula designed for infants' specific health and nutritional needs.

Some formulas are made without specific ingredients for infants who may be sensitive to standard formula or breastmilk ingredients. Formulas may also be designed for infants with underlying health conditions that require highly specialized feeding regimes.

Why is there increased interest in baby formula recipes?

As we briefly covered in a previous post, one of the largest infant formula manufacturers in the United States recalled baby formula due to possible contamination. Additionally, the plant has been shut down until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives the go-ahead to reopen the facility and restart production.

The recall plus the factory shutdown has led to infant formula shortages across the country, especially for infants with specific health needs that require a specialized formula.

What recipes are people sharing?

Through social listening activities, we've noticed a dramatic increase in recipes purported as safe replacements for infant formula. Some of these recipes are more than 60 years old. Other recipes are modern interpretations that attempt to replicate the nutritional qualities found in formula.

Let's look at old formula recipes.


While these recipes may have been used successfully more than 60 years ago, our understanding of an infant's nutritional needs has dramatically improved. We now know that these recipes do not meet a baby's dietary requirements for optimal healthy development.

Most notably, these recipes do not contain micronutrients that are critical to infant development.

Let's look at modern formula recipes. 


These recipes contain ingredients that infant stomachs cannot process effectively. They often contain too many minerals, like sodium, that can harm an infant.

Most worrisome, some recipes advocate for raw milk products that are not pasteurized. Unpasteurized milk products can contain harmful pathogens that can make an infant critically ill and even cause death.

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the essential vitamins and minerals needed to help prevent disease and support proper bodily functions such as energy production, immune function, growth, bone health, etc. (1,2).

There are more than 30 micronutrients. Some familiar micronutrients include vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamins B, iron, zinc, etc.

Are there other specialized ingredients in infant formula? 

Many ingredients are often included in baby formula to help support infant development, such as essential fatty acids like ARA and DHA that support neurological development and nucleotides to support growth, to name two.

There are other ingredients added to help fortify formula, so it meets an infant's needs.

Is there a safe recipe I can follow to make my own infant formula? 

Unfortunately, due to the nature of infant formula, there isn't a home recipe available to make your own baby formula safely.

There are too many variables in ingredients, micronutrients, essential fatty acids, proteins, etc., to make infant formula safely in a home kitchen.

There is also the genuine risk of accidental contamination, where the formula becomes contaminated with harmful bacteria or pathogens that can cause severe illness in a child. 

My child doesn't have any health conditions. Can I feed them homemade formula? 

Regardless of an infant's health, you should not feed your baby homemade infant formula as it may not contain the correct balance of nutrients to support their health. 

Talk with your infant's state-licensed, board-certified pediatrician about meeting nutritional needs during this shortage. 

My child has underlying health conditions. Can I feed them homemade formula?

Regardless of the ingredients (e.g., cow milk, soy, goat milk, etc.), you should not feed your baby homemade infant formula as it may not contain the correct balance of nutrients to support their health.

Talk with your infant's state-licensed, board-certified pediatrician about meeting nutritional needs during this shortage.

What do I do if I cannot get the formula my baby needs? 

If you cannot find infant formula, reach out to your state-licensed, board-certified pediatrician. They will have resources to help you find formula or can advise on safe alternatives. 

If your child has health needs that require specialized formula, here is a resource to help connect you to a manufacturer or individual who can help you source the needed formula: https://www.hhs.gov/formula/index.html.

The good news.  

Manufacturers and the FDA are working to solve the shortages. While it's acutely painful now, there is reason to believe the scarcity will be lessened in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about foods and ingredients, please reach out to us on Twitter, send us an email, or submit your idea to us at go.msu.edu/cris-idea.

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