Report: 1 in 8 Low-Income Parents Waters Down Formula

As many as 15 percent of parents who struggle to make ends meet add water to their babies’ formula, using “formula stretching” to get more out of their infant food purchases, a new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics has found.

The study followed Cincinnati families who qualify for federal food assistance and free formula through a program called WIC.  MSNBC.com reports that the assistance isn’t enough for many families:

Even though the majority of parents were receiving help through foods stamps and WIC, many did not have enough food to feed their families. In fact, some 65 percent of families ran out of WIC-supplied infant formula most months. And the result, in many cases, was that parents diluted or cut back on formula for their infants.

This kind of formula stretching may have consequences for the infants, Beck said.

“There will be a subset of children who will have what is called ‘failure to thrive,’” Beck explained. “More often, though, the ramifications of this tend to be less visible — problems with cognition and behavior. In some it may lead to obesity later in life.”

While some might point to breast feeding as a solution, not every mom is in the position to do this for her child. In some jobs it’s virtually impossible to express milk during the day when a mom is away from her baby.

“Clearly, we encourage and actively support breastfeeding,” Beck said. “The reality is that a relatively low percentage of our patients breastfeed by the time they reach us.  If they do, we continue to encourage it and have a breastfeeding clinic if they need it.  Although they likely wouldn’t require formula, we need to do education and a nutritional assessment for mom.  Also, as the first year progresses, even fewer families continue to nurse.”

Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock

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