Avoiding Unsafe Feeding

Young infants should only be fed breast milk, commercial, iron-fortified commercial infant formula or a combination of both; this is all they need to stay hydrated, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Infant formula can be safely purchased from reputable retailers, either in their physical stores or through their official website.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends against making and feeding homemade infant formula as it could lead to very serious short- and long-term health consequences. Evidence has shown that homemade formulas can lead to bacterial infections, especially those containing raw, unpasteurized cow, goat, or sheep milk. Additionally, homemade infant formula may lack appropriate levels of nutrients needed to support healthy infant growth.

Commercial infant formulas are the most highly regulated food, and are carefully quality-controlled and manufactured to the highest industry and government standards.

Parents should never add water to ready-to-feed infant formula. When using powdered or concentrated liquid infant formula, parents should never use more water than what is recommended on the infant formula label, over-diluting the formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise that diluted formula will not provide adequate nutrition and, if fed for an extended period of time, may result in slower growth and risk of malnutrition. Additionally, the AAP warns that excessive water consumption could result in water intoxication, which can cause seizures and even death in infants. Families should follow proper mixing instructions provided by the formula manufacturer.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cow’s milk is not appropriate for children under the age of one year because they cannot digest cow’s milk as easily as breast milk or infant formula. Cow’s milk that has not been specially heat processed (such as the heat processing used in infant formula) can cause intestinal blood loss in some babies, which leads to iron being lost in the blood. Additionally, cow’s milk contains higher levels of protein and sodium than recommended for infants, as well as lower levels of vitamin C, vitamin E and copper and contains butterfat that may be difficult for a baby to digest.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends against feeding breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet because of possible health and safety risks. According to the FDA, babies fed human milk from a source other than their own mother could be exposed to infectious diseases (including HIV), to chemical contaminants (such as some illegal drugs), and some prescription drugs if the donor has not been adequately screened. In addition, similar to other forms of milk, if breast milk is not handled and stored properly, it can become uncontaminated and unsafe to drink.

If parents are having trouble breastfeeding or are interested in donor breast milk they should speak with a lactation consultant, pediatrician or healthcare provider.

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