Premature infants are at an increased risk for developing health problems if they drink formula from older cans or bottles. The FDA has warned that these products may contain toxic levels of lead and other chemicals. The agency recommends that parents only use fresh, new formula when feeding premature infants.
The risk of a baby developing an allergy to cow’s milk protein has decreased over the years due to advances in manufacturing processes. However, some babies still develop allergies to cow’s milk protein.
When a baby eats food containing cow’s milk protein, a reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. Some babies who eat formula develop antibodies to cow’s milk protein in their blood. These antibodies are thought to prevent the body from reacting to the milk. However, a baby whose mother did not have the antibodies while she was pregnant could have them in her bloodstream. This means that the baby could have the same reaction to milk proteins as her mother.
In rare cases, babies whose mothers had the antibodies pass them on to their children can develop symptoms such as hives, swelling of the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure.
The first step in dealing with this problem is to make sure your baby doesn’t have the antibodies. If your baby was born to a mother who had these antibodies, then she should be tested again when she starts eating foods containing cow’s milk. The antibodies can still be present, but may not cause problems unless your baby begins eating cow’s milk. If you’re worried, you can test your baby’s antibodies every three months starting at age 1 year. If your baby has these antibodies, you’ll need to watch for signs of anaphylaxis. If you see any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately and administer rescue medications:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or other parts of the body
- Severe itching
- Pale skin
To treat your baby, inject epinephrine (adrenaline) into the muscle of his or her thigh, then repeat the dose every five minutes as needed. If you don’t have access to epinephrine, administer an antihistamine, and call 911.
The hospital will usually give you a “formula mix” (formula mixed with water) to replace the formula your baby is receiving at home. It’s called a formula mix because the hospital adds in some water. The formula mix isn’t sterile and can cause diarrhea in babies. The formula may also taste different than the formula your baby is used to.
If your baby is too ill to eat or drink, he’ll need some nutrition. But since the donated milk comes from other mothers, you’ll need to be careful. Donated milk is not sterile, and can contain bacteria that can cause sickness. Babies are born with antibodies to protect them from bacteria and viruses, and donating breast milk can reduce the effectiveness of those antibodies. The antibodies that the mother passes along to her baby are known as human milk antibodies (HMA).
So, It is important to discard old formulas and never to feed it to a baby. If you have any questions about when to discard old formulas or how to store it, please talk to your pediatrician.