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Dangerous Mistake: Watering-Down Baby Formula

8:20 AM, Feb 4, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, FLA-- A new baby is a bundle of joy, but taking care of a baby can become very costly for families.

A new study from Clinical Pediatrics says 1-in-8 low-income parents are watering-down baby formula to make it last longer or reducing feedings, even with help from government food programs like WIC.

Watering-down formula dilutes the calories and nutrition which babies need to grow and thrive.

"If they (babies) are really getting excess water that can lower the salt in their blood the sodium and it can cause seizures," says Dr. Madeline Matar Joseph the Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at UF & Shands Jacksonville.

Dr. Joseph says UF & Shands Jacksonville is seeing parents resorting to watering-down formula or using rice cereal, both of which are extremely dangerous to do and will have lifelong consequences.

"The main concern is the brain growth, it really has a long lasting effect on their behavior and development," says Dr. Joseph.

She adds part of the issue is, it is a difficut subject for parents to speak about.

"If we see a baby that is not growing appropriately, we have to be sensitive about how we ask that," says Dr. Joseph.

At the Duval County Health Department,  Dr. Helen Jackson says WIC can only pay for 3/4ths of the monthly needs for a family. Though the health department does not have any documented cases of it yet, she is certain it is happening and is trying to educate parents to not do it.

"We question them during questionnaires and during our nutrition counseling sessions.  During our group nutrition education sessions, what we do is show moms that are on formula how to properly prepare formula," says Dr. Jackson.

She says it is an issue they and the hospitals will monitor closely moving forward.

"This is not the area to cut down if you are trying to save money," says Dr. Jackson.

Both Dr. Joseph and Dr. Jackson advocate breastfeeding for newborns.  Good news for mothers, breast pumps and consultations about breast feeding are now covered by the affordable care act, commonly known as ObamaCare.

If a mother cannot breast feed doctors say she should not, under any circumstances, water-down the formula, use rice cereal or give a baby whole milk.

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