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Pediatricians warn against unsafe formula alternatives amid shortage

Over half of all baby formula products sold out in Texas
Over half of all baby formula products sold out in Texas 01:57

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Pediatricians are warning parents about resorting to unsafe alternatives to baby formula as the shortage continues to cause panic.

Parents say they are driving to dozens of stores and still can't find the formula they need to feed their baby. As their desperation grows, so does misinformation circulating online.

"I would caution parents away from Facebook groups or social media groups, because while the advice is well meaning, it may not be scientifically sound," said Dr. Rina Sanghavi, a pediatric gastroenterologist at UT Southwestern Children's Health Dallas.

Pediatricians said that these substitutes can make your baby sick and deprive them of nutrients.

A recipe for homemade baby formula from 1960 is being widely shared on social media. It calls for putting evaporated milk and corn syrup into water, and it also suggests serving your baby a bit of tea each day and orange juice once they reach three weeks old.

Even though older generations may swear by these mixes, pediatricians are urging parents not to use this recipe or any other homemade concoction to feed their infant.

"What worked or what they thought worked in the 1960s, we have much better scientific knowledge now to know that it can cause short-term harm, but most importantly, long-term harm for the baby," said Dr. Sanghavi. "

Pediatricians warn against using alternatives such as this "old school" formula.

A homemade formula recipe can not only make your baby sick but also deprive them of key nutrients.

"None of these are safe," she said. "None of these provide all the nutrition that babies actually need to grow, and actually some of these are harmful."

Doctors also warn families not to try to dilute the formula to make a can last longer.

"It can give you problems, not only constipation or diarrhea, depending if you add more water or if you add less water," said Dr. David Aviles, a board-certified pediatrician with MD Kids Pediatrics. "You will get more formula, but that is going to be a dangerous actually for the baby."

Cow's milk isn't an option either unless your baby is close to a year old.

"If your baby is close to 11, 11 and a half months, I think it's okay to switch to regular whole milk," Dr. Sanghavi said. "I would not switch much earlier than that because cow's milk does not have all of the nutrients that are necessary for a human baby to grow."

In most cases, switching formula brands to what's available is fine, unless your child has certain food sensitivities or allergies.

Before you consider any change, consult with your pediatrician.

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