In two words: No. Never.
I get it. We are all trying to feed our children the best, healthiest options possible. If you are able to breastfeed your infant, I (and every major health organization) recommend it. It decreases your baby’s risk of infections, diabetes and an ever-growing list of other ailments. And every time you breastfeed – that’s one set of bottles you don’t have to wash!
If breastfeeding is not for you, then I definitely recommend a commercially available formula. With some exceptions, they are essentially the same – brand usually doesn’t make a huge difference. Generic is fine.
Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?
The internet is chock full of recipes for making your own formula at home. It can seem like a good idea at first: some vague thoughts about “familiar” ingredients instead of the “chemicals” in formula. But for infants, whose kidneys are not fully mature, the electrolyte balance of their formula is really important. Regular intake of the wrong electrolyte balance can be very harmful – even deadly.
Remember, everything naturally occurring also has a scientific name. “Sodium chloride” is table salt. “Cholecalciferol” is one name for Vitamin D. The “chemicals” in formula are typically things that are found in milk. Formula manufacturers use them in their pure form, so that they can precisely control the balance of those ingredients. Different sources or brands of agave nectar, maple syrup or other recipe ingredients will have different amounts of sugar, salt, and vitamins. There’s no way for a parent to be sure if their ingredients add up to a safe mixture or a very dangerous one.
The Bottom Line
Commercial formula is not as good as breast milk. Formula doesn’t contain antibodies to fight infection or certain other ingredients found in breast milk. However, it is a close enough replica to keep your infant safe, growing, and – most importantly – alive.