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Saying No to Homemade Baby Formula

By Nurse Barb Dehn

I met with Kara*, a new patient who was thrilled to be a mom. She delighted in caring for her beautiful baby girl. Even diaper changes were an opportunity to play, talk and sing. She didn't even mind getting up in the middle of the night for feedings, because it was a special time just for the two of them.

Kara had been breastfeeding exclusively, and tried to pump one to two times a day to keep her supply up. After 4 months, she noticed her supply changed when she attended a family wedding and endured a long car trip which changed their routine. She tried fenugreek; a supplement for increasing milk supply, increasing her liquids and resting. She started pumping 3 to 4 times per day, but it seemed that her baby was hungry and her milk supply was diminishing. Kara wasn't keen on the idea of using infant formula; she was worried about giving her baby something processed.

A friend of hers suggested that she make her own formula at home. Intrigued, Kara looked into the homemade baby formula recipes she found on-line. What she found was a lot scarier than the prospect of using powdered formula.

She learned that a baby's first year of life is considered the critical window for brain growth. The nutrients that babies get from breast milk or formula are essential building blocks for brain growth.

Babies' brains more than double in growth in the first year and they need important nutrients in order to create millions of new brain cells. In order to make the all-important neural synapses and connections between nerve cells; protein, fat, vitamins and carbohydrates need to be delivered in just the right amounts. Breast milk is the perfect food for brain growth and if that's not available, it's important to use the right infant formula for your baby. Many moms don't know that infant formula is strictly regulated by the FDA to keep little ones safe and that store brand formulas like Walmart's Parent's Choice Formula brand and Target's Up & Up are nutritionally comparable to Enfamil and Similac. Additionally, store brand formulas cost up to 50 percent less and can yield a savings of about $600 a year.

One of the most important nutrients for brain growth is fat. It's like brain candy. Breastfeeding moms may find that they lose weight as they continue to breastfeed past 3 months. During this time, a mother's body liberates lots of fat to make high calorie milk with the fat the baby needs for brain growth.

Commercially available infant formulas have very precise fat blends to ensure that babies are getting the right amount of fat for their growing brains.

When a baby does something as simple as sucking their fist, messages travel at light speed from the brain along the nerves of the arm, hand and fingers and back again to the brain. In order for this simple act to be possible, there's a long list of nutrients that must be present in a baby's diet, including fat, iron and vitamins.

As Kara read more and more, she wondered how it was possible to make a breast milk substitute from items in her pantry or supermarket shelves. After talking to her pediatrician, Kara learned that the nutrients in infant formula were based on decades of research on what would be best for baby's growth and development. It wasn't as simple as it seemed.

Kara decided to continue breastfeeding, while supplementing with something that's a safe alternative – a prepared infant formula. Kara understood why other moms might turn to a homemade version of formula, but as she did her research, she realized that it was a very risky pursuit. Since the baby's brain more than doubles in size in the first year, without the right critically essential nutrients, once the first year is over, it may be too late to make up for any nutritional deficiencies which could cause delays in physical and cognitive development.

About the Author

Barb Dehn

Nurse Barb Dehn is a practicing Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, award winning author, and a nationally recognized health expert. An in demand and popular national speaker on all aspects of women's health, she also lectures at Stanford and is a frequent health expert on television. She has appeared on CBS, ABC, CNN, Good Morning America Now and NBC's iVillageLive.

* Indicates name has been changed

Retail prices are from a June 2013 retail price survey of assorted Wal-Mart stores. Actual prices and savings may vary by store and location. Enfamil® is a registered trademark of Mead Johnson & Co. Similac® is a registered trademark of Abbott Laboratories. Parent's Choice Infant Formula is not made by or affiliated with Mead Johnson & Co., or Abbott Laboratories.

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