Safety concerns of the Paleo diet for babies
Home-made infant formula recipes such as those being promoted as Paleo DIY formulas for babies are increasingly available online, but there is no assurance of their safety, nutritional quality or appropriateness for babies.While they may appear safe and nutritious, home-made formulas can present risks to babies through inadequate nutrition (including nutrient levels that are too high or not suitable for the baby’s immature digestive system and kidneys) and increased food safety risks. In comparison, commercially produced infant formulas are required to meet strict standards in nutrition and food safety for babies.
There are specific ingredients in many home-made infant formula recipes that are of particular concern, from both a nutrition and food safety perspective. Babies are particularly vulnerable to the food safety risks posed by these ingredients, as their immune systems are not yet fully developed.
A baby’s immature kidneys and digestive systems could not cope with the Paleo DIY formulation and the nutrient levels it contains. For example, independent analysis found that one Paleo DIY formula made from liver, cod liver oil and bone broth was ten times higher than the upper limit for Vitamin A, and significantly higher in sodium, protein and iron than breast milk. The Paleo DIY formulation could cause permanent damage and possibly result in death in a newborn.
Health agencies are also concerned about a number of ingredients in Paleo recipes aimed at babies and toddlers that are not recommended due to microbiological risks. These include honey (botulism risk for babies in the first 12 months), runny eggs (salmonella risk) and raw liver. Other ingredients of concern are raw milk (listeria and salmonella risk) and use of salt in recipes for babies, which is not recommended.
There are also food safety risks with the preparation of the Paleo DIY infant formula.
SA Health advises parents and carers that the Paleo diet is not appropriate for babies and toddlers.
SA Health encourages parents to adopt advice provided in the Australian Government’s Infant Feeding Guidelines, developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Infant Feeding Guidelines provide evidence-based advice on breastfeeding, infant formulas designed to meet the nutrition and food safety needs of babies, and introducing solid foods.
Based on these guidelines, it is recommended that babies be exclusively breastfed until around six months of age when solid foods are introduced. The only suitable replacement for breastfeeding if required is a commercially available infant formula prepared according to the product instructions.