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What Are the Dangers of Diluted Baby Formula?

by Sara Ipatenco

Baby formula is expensive and can easily set you back a couple hundred dollars a month or more, depending on what kind you use. It might be tempting to water down the formula to save money and make it last longer, but that can be quite dangerous. Infant formula is manufactured to meet the exact nutritional needs of your baby, and altering that can result in serious medical and developmental problems.

Mixing Infant Formula

Each can of powdered infant formula comes with a scoop and specific directions for mixing it with water, which makes it easy to properly prepare your baby's bottles. Concentrated liquid baby formula also comes with specific instructions regarding the water to formula ratio. Many mothers don't use appropriate bottle-preparing habits, however, according to a 2008 article published in "Pediatrics." When you follow the mixing instructions exactly, there is very little chance that your baby will experience negative consequences, and even though it seems like an innocent thing, diluting the formula can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions.

Nutritional Dangers

When you dilute your baby's formula, you're also diluting the nutrients it contains. That means that your infant might not be getting the essential vitamins and minerals she needs for normal growth and development. Babies need a certain amount of iron from formula and diluting it can reduce the amount of this essential mineral, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Low iron can then lead to anemia, a disorder that occurs when your baby doesn't have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen through her growing body. Bone and teeth-building calcium is another nutrient that your baby could become deficient in.

Water Intoxication

Diluted infant formula contains more water than it should, and while older children and adults usually don't have to worry about drinking too much water, parents do need to monitor the water intake of newborns and very young babies. Babies get all of the water they need from properly mixed formula or breast milk, and giving your little one more than that can lead to water intoxication, according to a 2008 article published in "Scientific American." When it happens, a baby's sodium level drops dramatically, which can lead to seizures, brain damage, coma and death. Symptoms of water intoxication include confusion, drowsiness, twitching, poor breathing and vomiting, reports the Children's Hospital of St. Louis. If your baby displays any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Considerations

If you use infant formula, follow the mixing directions exactly and use the measuring scoop that comes with the formula to make sure the ratio of water to formula stays the same. If cost is an issue, breastfeeding may be a good choice. Not only is it free, but breast milk is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the primary source of food for infants until they are 6 months old. If you can't or choose not to breastfeed, local and state agencies often have subsidy programs to help parents pay for infant formula. Local food banks often stock formula for families in need, as well.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

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