- Social media pediatricians the PediPals are urging people to stop sharing formula alternatives online.
- Potentially harmful recipes have spread across social media platforms during the nationwide shortage.
- “There is no one size fits all,” said Dr. Ana, which is why the recipes can be dangerous.
Viral social media posts with alleged alternative baby food recipes have spread during the continued shortage of the product in the USbut medical experts with online followers are speaking out against the trend, calling the DIY substitutes dangerous.
Amateur baby food recipes are spread across numerous platforms, including on Twitter, TikTok and YouTube, Bloomberg reported. While social media platforms have removed some videos in violation of their rules banning medical misinformation, the platforms have not consistently removed such videos, the report said.
“We understand the need to try everything – to help each other – but it just seemed like it was just more and more videos and different recipes, all of which if you have any nutritional or medical background you can see are extremely dangerous says Dr. Sami, a Texas-based physician who is half of the PediPals, a pediatrician duo that creates social media content to educate parents about childcare.
Initially, Sami told Insider that she had only seen a few videos promoting at-home recipes. But eventually she said she realized there were more and the videos were “going more and more viral.”
Some videos promoting the Insider-seen at-home formulas called for ingredients like evaporated milk and Karo syrup. Other TikTok makers called for hemp seeds, pitted dates and vanilla. Some makers recommend that people give babies goat’s milk as an alternative. All of these care options could potentially be harmful to infants, doctors told Insider.
A recipe video Insider saw was viewed more than 1.4 million times on Friday.
dr. Ana, also a Texas pediatrician and the other half of the PediPals, told Insider that the videos she saw generally came from creators who seemed to have “no expertise at all” in pediatric care.
“They say this worked for me, this worked for my mom, my grandma, so of course this should work for you,” Ana said.
But that kind of “general advice” can be dangerous, she said.
“There’s no size for everyone, and the formula is so researched and so much goes into getting the right nutrients and electrolytes in, because babies are very vulnerable,” Ana told Insider.
Sami’s frustration with these videos forced her to make a passionate plea on TikTok. In the May 15 video, which has 1.2 million views, Sami urged the makers to stop sharing recipes.
“At that time, infant mortality was just an accepted part of life,” Sami said in the video, responding to people sharing recipes and advice passed down from previous generations that she says modern medicine is outdated.
“In the past, people would take out 8 to 10 babies, and two of them would die,” she added. “Our babies are really alive, and we don’t want to go back in time.”
Bad formula recipes can lead to health problems for babies
Improper nutrition from a home recipe can lead to a variety of problems, including electrolyte imbalances and vitamin deficiencies, which can lead to seizures, heart problems and problems with bone development, the doctors said.
“There are so many things that can happen,” Ana said. “And just because it doesn’t happen to some people doesn’t mean other kids can’t be bothered by this kind of advice.”
Even too much water can be harmful to newborns, the PediPals added.
“It’s all the same because a kitchen is not a sterile environment,” Sami said. “Babies are super vulnerable, especially newborns, and especially babies under six months old. They don’t have fully developed kidneys. They can’t just drink anything, so these recipes don’t come from a place of safety or evidence. They’re old wives’ tales .”
Ana and Sami said they started PediPals in 2020 as a means to help and educate parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, but more recently they said they have exposed dangerous misinformation being spread online.
Initially, the duo started a podcast, but later spread across
, including TikTok, where they recently surpassed 500,000 followers. They said they both worked full-time as pediatricians and created the social media content alongside.
While platforms like TikTok have rules banning medical misinformation, Ana and Sami are part of a whole subgenre of TikTok creators: medical experts debunking and responding to inaccurate and dangerous misinformation spread across the app.
But speaking out against misinformation online is often difficult for creators, who previously told Insider they received death threats and harassment for creating content that called on other creators to share bad information. The PediPals said they were threatened for doing things like speaking out about vaccines, abortion and COVID-19.
The duo asked to be identified only by their first names, which is also their online identities as the PediPals, due to the threats they have received in the past.
“Medical makers are unfortunately being targeted,” Sami said. “You have to have a lot of courage if you want to talk about evidence-based medicine.”