Thursday, May 26, 2022

Let them drink beer

This post has nothing to do with fiber art but I'm feeling seriously crabby.

I'm crabby about the crisis in baby formula.  As a mother who failed at breastfeeding my first time around (as did my mother and my sister) and went straight to the bottle the second time around, I can't imagine what mothers are doing today when they can't find formula in the stores.  And it seems that the only response from the public health establishment is to harangue them: DON'T, DON'T, DON'T make homemade formula.

I was particularly annoyed this afternoon to read my regular email newsletter from Dr. Leana Wen, who writes for the Washington Post.  A reader complained to her: "Why aren't pediatricians sharing these recipes?  Public health authorities keep treating mothers like they are too incompetent to follow simple directions to feed their babies."

Dr. Wen sanctimoniously explained the two reasons why mothers shouldn't make their own formula.  "First, commercial formula is carefully researched through clinical trials to provide the specific nutrients babies need.  Homemade recipes will likely lack these nutrients or contain them in improper amounts."

So how about sharing recipes that contain the right nutrients in the right amounts?  Wouldn't that be better than leaving desperate parents to their own devices?

Dr. Wen continues:  "Second, homemade recipes are rife with bacterial contamination.  There are Internet recipes that call for using unpasteurized raw milk, which is really dangerous for babies."

Again, how about sharing a recipe that doesn't call for unpasteurized raw milk?  Or sharing tips for making sure that homemade formula is protected as much as possible from bacteria?  People are capable of canning tomatoes in sterile jars, and in an emergency -- which we have right now -- they should be able to carefully do the best possible job with baby formula.

Dr. Wen and WaPo are not alone in telling people what not to do but offering no help on what they should do instead.  Here's the New York Times' list of don'ts:  

"If you're running low on formula, don't dilute it or try to stretch it by adding water."  

"Don't buy formula from an online marketplace like Facebook or Craigslist... Always go to a trusted store, pharmacy or directly to the manufacturer."  (in other words, all those places that don't have any formula on the shelves...)

"Don't feed toddler formula to your infant.  (Toddler formula may be OK for an older baby for a few days; check with your doctor.)" 

"Buying imported European formulas, which aren't FDA-approved, has potential risks.  For example, in Europe, a hypoallergenic formula may contain intact proteins, which can cause reactions in babies with allergies."  (apparently the White House missed this memo, because they're already starting to airlift formula from Europe...)

For many reasons, this isn't turning out to be a great year for parents and children.  Perhaps the FDA will eventually get around to approving a covid vaccine for little ones, or perhaps they'll just hope the little ones can survive to age 5.  Perhaps the airlifted formula will be sufficient that the babies can survive long enough to be able to finally drink toddler formula.  

And with any luck, the little ones will survive to adulthood without being shot up in their classrooms.  Our grandson graduated from elementary school today, uneventfully.  Other grandparents sadly are not as fortunate as we in that respect.


  1. Right on. It is particularly ironic that the advice is not to make your own because you can’t make it as safe as the FDA approved factory formula, when a good deal of the shortage is caused by a factory that was in such poor, unsafe condition it had to be shut down. So, now, you must have the baby no matter what, but once it is born both you and the child are on your own, sweetie.

  2. so interesting to read the 'advice'. No-one seems to think about the epidemic of food allergies---and other allergies---that in some instances are linked to fanaticsim in cleaning and germ-free. I grew up on raw milk and have no food allergies. Ditto my brothers and all the kids I grew up with--none of us had problems with any food--allthose starving children in India or China..maneas you need to eat what's on your plate. Hand-washed dishes in well water--according to some--we should never have survived---we also had teeter-totters, and merry-go=rounds

    1. yes, and when I was five years old I walked to kindergarten by myself, maybe a quarter- or half-mile, crossing a busy street....

  3. Are there dangers in making your own formula? Absolutely. There's danger in simply being alive. And when it comes to the nutritional issues - most desperate parents are not looking for formula to use for the rest of the time the baby needs it. They are looking for something to tide them over for a few days while they keep looking for the regular formula. All the officials say is to check with the doctor if they have samples. How many samples to they think doctors offices keep on hand?!?!?

  4. Thank you so much for this. Being childless, I was hesitant to comment or question why one couldn't just make their own formula, at least until supplies came back on the shelves (never once went the why don't they just breast feed route). Then I started reading the WHY of special formulas and sort of backed down, but still wondered how many babies out there are being unnecessarily put on special baby formula, knowing how industry often drives recommendations, even medical ones. I just can't believe how many kids apparently have serious allergies and asthma and have to wonder why. I had some allergies as a kid too but nothing like what I see today. Kids being raised in too sterile of an environment? Anyway, I have to agree that there has been too much don't do this and not enough but you could safely try that. When I read elsewhere that bit about the dangers of bacteria in homemade formula I had to laugh. Then again, how many younger people today have no idea how to cook anything, having missed the basic education that home ec classes provided but which have been stripped from curriculum. I think society makes its own crisis and doesn't want to accept the blame let alone come up with practical solutions.

    1. My son (1971) couldn't digest fat so I fed him instant non fat dry milk I mixed myself with boiled water.. He stopped vomiting the fat filled formula and finally started putting on much needed weight. His pediatrician suggested it.

  5. European developers of baby formula are certainly much less careful about making sure that these products are safe for babies, because they are completely incompetent in any kind of hygienic standards. (Not going into details about the trade wars on chicken imports...) I can't believe this.