New parents are being warned against trying to create their own homemade infant formulas, because the formulations could be dangerously low in nutrients and could lead to malnutrition and illness in their babies.

Health Canada, the Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society released statements Wednesday that say not only can homemade formula be inadequate from a nutrition standpoint, it can also contain harmful bacteria that could also endanger the health of babies.

Many parents using homemade infant formula are often seeking a more “natural” food than commercial infant formula, says the Dieticians of Canada, and are finding formula recipes on the Internet or from alternative health-care providers. 

The formulations they create are often made with protein powder or oil added to milk or plant-based beverages.

But the agencies say the formulations often do not provide the correct balance of nutrients that infants need.

“There have been cases of severe malnutrition from feeding infants alternative beverages instead of breast milk or commercial infant formulas,” Dr. Jeff Critch, chair of the Canadian Pediatric Society’s Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee, said in a statement.

The agencies note that all ingredients in commercial infant formula, including added vitamins and other important compounds, are included for a reason.

Health Canada also notes that all commercial infant formulas undergo full safety and nutritional quality assessments before they are sold.

Infant formula companies must provide evidence their products do not pose chemical or microbiological risks. As well, the formulas must meet nutritional-content standards to ensure they have the correct balance of protein, fats, vitamins and mineral nutrients.

Health Canada recommends breastfeeding for infants as the “most beneficial method of feeding infants for normal growth, health and development.” It promotes breastfeeding babies exclusively for the first six months, and for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding.

For babies who are not receiving breast milk, the agency recommends only commercial infant formula as a substitute.

Parents who are considering using a homemade formula, or those who are concerned that their child needs a special formula, should talk with their doctor, registered dietitian or registered nurse, the three agencies advise.