University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Kwashiorkor in an 8-Month-Old Infant Due to Homemade Formula Use

James J. McCarthy, MD; Sarah C. Yale, MD

WMJ. 2023;122(1):67-69.

Download full-text pdf.


Introduction: Kwashiorkor is a malnutrition syndrome most commonly seen in the United States among patients with malabsorptive conditions. While it is rare in otherwise healthy individuals, cases can develop where low nutritional literacy or unorthodox diets are a factor.

Case Presentation: We present the case of an 8-month-old infant who developed kwashiorkor after transitioning to homemade infant formula.

Discussion: This patient developed severe malnutrition due to consumption of homemade formula that did not meet nutritional standards. The recipe was promoted by an alternative health organization as a healthy option, and the difficulty in identifying reliable health information online also played a significant role.

Conclusions: Families of young children face many challenges, particularly during the recent infant formula shortage. Maintaining strong relationships and open communication with trusted health care professionals is vital to combating health misinformation and helping patients and families navigate these challenges safely.

Author Affiliations: Department of Pediatrics, Section of Hospital Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (McCarthy, Yale); Department of Medicine, Section of Hospital Medicine, MCW, Milwaukee, Wis (McCarthy).
Corresponding Author: James J. McCarthy, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, 7th Floor Hub for Collaborative Medicine, Milwaukee, WI 53226; phone 414.337.7050; e-mail; ORCID ID 0000-0001-8881-935X
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Prior Presentations: An abstract of this case was accepted as a clinical vignette to the 2020 Society of Hospital Medicine Annual Meeting.
Share WMJ