Amid a growing shortage of bottle-feeding, parents are desperate to provide their babies with the nutrition they need. That’s tricky: before they’re about six months oldBabies can only digest formula or breast milk as food, and they cannot have cow’s milk or plant milk until they a year old. Not every parent can give breast milk, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration warn that homemade formula can be very dangerous for babies – it can cause serious digestive problems and even transmit bacteria that their developing immune systems can’t handle.
But despite these clear warnings, natural lifestyle influencers are promoting homemade formula recipes online. One group that is particularly vocal on this front is the Weston A. Price Foundation, a holistic nutrition organization advocating for a diet rich in dairy and red meat. In addition to his food activism, Weston A. Price has also distinguished himself during the pandemic with a slew of posts and articles claiming that Covid was actually caused by 5G wireless technology and that it “not contagious†
Earlier this week, Weston A. Price’s Instagram account posted a photo of baby bottles with this caption:
We’ve seen reports of parents desperate for commercial infant formula while standing in front of empty shelves. We have free nutritious homemade baby food recipes that have been successfully feeding babies for over 20 years! Click the link in our bio and share this resource with anyone who needs it!
I’m not going to link directly to Weston A. Price’s recipe because I don’t want to risk spreading anything that goes against the recommendations of the AAP and the FDA. And Weston A. Price’s formula recipe is gaining traction on its own — this group is very influential in certain circles and has 200,000 Instagram followers. But I’ll note that Weston A. Price’s formula recipe contains raw milk, which, because of the bacteria it can carry, is dangerous for anyone. Children have died from drinking raw milk†
When I asked Weston A. Price founder and president Sally Fallon Morell if she knew medical groups and government agencies had warned against using homemade formulas, she said, “Well, I don’t know what they expect people to use.” She claimed that her group’s recipe was both safe and superior to commercial baby food because it contains cholesterol, which she believes promotes brain development in babies. She also claimed that raw milk is safe. (The CDC says raw milk has been linked to dozens of foodborne illness outbreaks.)
Weston A. Price isn’t the only account promoting homemade formula. I found dozens of them on Instagram. One appears to be a weathered sheet of paper from a pediatric practice, perhaps from the 1950s or earlier. It recommends a recipe that includes karo syrup, which is basically a version of high fructose corn syrup. Other variations I’ve seen from natural lifestyle accounts include aloe vera juice, chlorophyll, and molasses.
Some influencers who share formula recipes (though not Weston A. Price) are now also claiming that conspiracy theory bete noir Bill Gates orchestrated the formula shortage because he supported a company trying to make lab-produced breast milk. †That accusage is wrong.†
I’ve written a lot about how people are hurt by health disinformation that influencers share on social media. I’ve talked about anti-vaccine accounts, essential oil vendors, and placenta encapsulation enthusiasts. The common denominator in how this is all spreading is desperation – these posts are going viral because health care providers feel helpless, and they want to believe in the gloss of naturalness surrounding vaccine detox regimens or oil blends that claim to cure autism. The combination of dangerous advice in homemade baby food posts and the growing desperation of parents makes this one of the most terrifying forms of misinformation I’ve seen.