- Pediatricians on social media, PediPals, are urging people to stop sharing formula alternatives online.
- Potentially harmful recipes spread across social media platforms during the nationwide shortage.
- Dr. said. Anna why prescriptions can be dangerous.
Viral posts on social media offering purported alternative baby food recipes have gone viral all year long due to persistent product shortages in the US, but medical experts with online followers are speaking out against the trend, calling DIY alternatives dangerous.
Bloomberg reported that amateur baby food recipes spread across several platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. The report said that while social media platforms have removed some videos that violate their rules banning medical misinformation, the platforms have not consistently removed such videos.
“We understand we have to try to do everything we can — to help each other — but it just seems like more and more videos and different recipes, all of which you can see if you have any extreme nutritional or medical background,” said Dr. Sami, resident doctor. In Texas he is half PediPals, a pediatrician biologist who creates content on social media to help parents educate parents about child care.
First, Sammy told Insider that she only watched a few videos promoting recipes for homemade formulas. But in the end, she said, she realized there was more of it and the videos were “going viral”.
Some of the videos insiders have seen promote homemade recipes that call for ingredients like evaporated milk and Karo syrup. Other TikTok creators called hemp seeds, pitted dates, and vanilla. Some innovators recommend feeding infants goat’s milk as an alternative. Doctors told Insider that all of these options may be harmful to infants.
A recipe video watched by Insider has garnered more than 1.4 million views as of Friday.
Dr. Anna, also a pediatrician from Texas and the other half of PediPals, told Insider that the videos she’s seen are generally of writers who seem to have “absolutely no experience” in pediatrics.
“They say this worked for me, this worked for my mum and grandmother, and obviously this should work for you,” Anna said.
But she said that kind of “holistic advice” can be dangerous.
“There is no one size fits all, the formula has been researched extensively and there is a lot that goes into getting the right nutrients and electrolytes because babies are so vulnerable,” Anna told Insider.
Sami’s frustration with these videos forced her to enthusiastically appeal to TikTok. In the May 15 video, which garnered 1.2 million views, Sami urged creators to stop sharing recipes.
“At the time, infant mortality was just an accepted part of life,” Sami said in the video, responding to people who shared recipes and advice from previous generations who believed modern medicine was outdated.
“People used to take out eight to ten children and two of them died,” she added. “Our children are already alive, and we don’t want to go back in time.”
Bad food recipes can lead to health problems for children
Doctors said improper prescription nutrition can lead to many problems, including electrolyte imbalance and vitamin deficiencies that can lead to seizures, heart problems and problems with bone development.
“There are a lot of things that can happen,” Anna said. “And just because it doesn’t happen to some people doesn’t mean other kids can’t take that kind of advice.”
PediPals added that too much water can also harm newborns.
“It’s all in the same horror world because the kitchen is not a sterile environment,” Sami said. Babies are very weak, especially newborns and especially children under six months of age. They do not have fully developed kidneys. You can’t just drink anything, so these recipes don’t come from a place of certainty or proof. These are old wives’ tales.
Anna and Sami said they founded PediPals in 2020 to help and educate parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, but recently said they have debunked dangerous misinformation circulating online.
Initially, the duo started podcasts and later spread across social media platforms including TikTok, where the number of followers recently crossed the 500,000 mark. They said they both work full time as pediatricians and do social media content on the side.
While platforms like TikTok have rules banning medical misinformation, Ana and Sami are part of an entire sub-genre of TikTok creators: medical experts who have debunked and responded to spreading inaccurate and dangerous misinformation on the app.
But speaking out against misinformation online is often difficult for creators, who have previously told insiders that they have received death threats and harassment for creating content that calls on other creators to share bad information. PediPals said they have faced threats to do things like speak out about vaccinations, abortion and COVID-19.
The duo requested that they be identified only by their first names, which also represent their online identity as PediPals, due to threats they have received in the past.
“Unfortunately, medical innovators are being targeted,” Sami said. “You have to have a lot of courage if you want to talk about evidence-based medicine.”
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