A nutritionist shares the dangers of feeding babies almond milk

  • Pediatric nutritionist Marina Chaparro has described the dangers of not feeding babies properly.
  • She saw a baby in ketoacidosis, a sign of starvation, due to an almond milk diet.
  • Diluting formula milk can also lead to lethargy and life-threatening seizures, doctors say.

Pediatric nutritionist Marina Chaparro was working at a children’s hospital in Miami about five years ago when an infant was admitted with symptoms including weight loss and vomiting.

The baby had ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body begins to break down fatty acids for energy, releasing ketones and making the blood dangerously acidic.

At first, Chaparro and his fellow doctors, who worked in the pediatric endocrinology unit, thought the baby had type 1 diabetes, a common culprit of ketoacidosis.

But after a series of tests, providers learned that the baby’s condition was not caused by diabetes, but by starvation: his mother was giving him an almond milk diet, presumably based on advice erroneous medical records she had found online.

Chaparro, who now runs his own bilingual children and family nutrition practice, said the story stuck with him over the years because it illustrated the dangers of medical misinformation – something that has only spread in recent times. years.

Nut milk is not a safe substitute for formula

Although nut milk can fit into most toddlers’ diets, it doesn’t have the right nutrients to replace breast milk or formula in babies under the age of one, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Neither cow’s milk nor other non-dairy milk substitutes.

Infant formula is “really hard to remake, it’s really hard to have that balance that food scientists have been studying for years,” Chaparro said during a webinar hosted by the California Strawberry Commission. “Not to mention the risk of cross-contamination and infection” when making your own formula.

The baby’s mother was “doing her best,” Chaparro added, and probably thought that because almond milk worked for her, it was good for her baby.

Chaparro said the baby ended up fine and was discharged after a few days of feeding with proper formula. The mother also left better educated.

But the experience made Chaparro realize “how deep these diet messages sometimes come into our culture, and we listen to them and sometimes translate them to our children and our families,” she said. “It does, I’m like, ‘This could be really dangerous. “”

Doctors say diluting formula can also be dangerous

Other moms have turned to internet recipes for homemade formulas more recently, in light of last year’s formula shortages.

Dr. Owais Durrani, an East Texas ER doctor, previously spoke to Insider about the aftermath, like lethargy and seizures, which he witnessed firsthand.

In some cases, he said, parents have watered down their formulas in an attempt to make them last longer, but this offsets the electrolyte balance, which can lead to low sodium in infants. This, in turn, can reduce babies’ blood volume, causing low blood pressure and life-threatening levels of circulating oxygen.

“A formula is basically regulated as tightly as any prescription drug in terms of what ingredients it contains to ensure that a baby’s kidneys are developing, their liver, their electrolytes – everything else is in very good balance,” he said.

“They’re not as hardy as an adult who can be out in the sun for 12 hours and become dehydrated – we’ll still be ok for the most part, but for a baby that’s not the case,” added Durrani. “Every electrolyte, every component, every mineral in this formula is very important.”

In the face of shortages, Durrani recommended parents switch to other available brands, if possible, or ask their pediatrician or local hospital for formula samples.

“We’re here to help. We’re not going to turn a hungry baby away from the emergency department. We’ll make sure that when that baby comes out there’s a plan in place,” Durrani said. “But please don’t use any of these other options, as it can lead to life-threatening issues.”

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