Plant-derived Milk Substitutes Are Dangerous For Infants
Plant “milks” should never be used as a substitute for breastmilk or infant formula. Without exception, they are too low in calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Soy, rice, almond, and sweet chestnut milks have been associated with severe problems in infancy, including death. Protein malnutrition and growth arrest, rickets, hypothyroidism, iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, seizures, and coma have all been reported in infants who were fed these substitute milks.
Substitutes For Commercial Baby Foods
Most pediatricians recommend that infants receive only breastmilk, no water or fruit juice, for the first six months of life. Water is unnecessary since breastmilk is more than 90 percent water, and fruit juice tends to be high in sugar, encouraging babies to develop a taste for sweet foods.
Infants can tolerate solid foods and obtain nutrients from them as early as the first month of life, but that is not a wise practice. There is no reason for adding solid foods to a milk-only diet, but there are several reasons not to. First, the child’s swallowing mechanism is not well coordinated to handle non-liquids in the early months. Rice cereal or bananas– the typical “starter” foods– replace the calories that should come from breastmilk, but they do not contain the same nutrients. Giving solid foods early has no nutritional value, and it is a misconception that it will help the baby to sleep through the night. From an evolutionary point of view, babies are not meant to sleep through the night until they are several months old. “Sleeping through” might be a point of pride for Mom, but nature has programmed babies to waken more often than every couple of hours for a feeding.
After six months of age, an infant is ready for solid food. Baby food in glass jars is a 20th century development, and working mothers were relieved to have such convenience. It’s a lot easier to open a small jar of baby food than it is to put veggies, fruit, and meat through a grinder or strainer and to add the chore of cleaning the utensil. Mom and Dad will have little choice at TEOTWAWKI. There will be no supermarkets or glass jars, but babies will certainly benefit from food prepared in the old-fashioned way.
Nutrition-conscious mothers puree freshly-prepared foods for their infants as weaning begins. Almost any foods that are eaten by adults can be pureed by hand, making it unnecessary for the infant to have a special menu. In TEOTWAWKI, there will be no elegant electric food processors that recent generations of parents have relied upon. Sophisticated blenders won’t work when electricity is unavailable, but simple hand-cranked food grinders will. Like their much more expensive modern counterparts, they have screens of various types and can easily be used to make fine or coarse purees, according to an infant’s needs. They are inexpensive and are available online for less than $25. Following the Rawles precept that “two is one and one is none”, it makes sense to have more than one on hand. It will be a valuable item for barter.
The bland flavor of commercially-pureed foods is partly the result of attempts by the baby food industry to lower the content of salt and sugar in most of their products. Anyone who has tasted infant food from a jar while coaxing a child to eat is likely to have thought “I’m glad that I don’t have to eat this stuff!” Freshly-ground food will be a real improvement, however little the child will appreciate it.
Since the beginning of time, mothers have chewed food before feeding it to their infant, and some mothers still do. As gross as premastication might sound to young readers, it adds salivary enzymes to the food, making it even easier for the infant to digest.
Food Sources At TEOTWAWKI
A young family should consider accumulating a supply of as many cases of concentrated or powdered infant formula as their budget and storage capability can accommodate, if pregnancy is likely in the future. Unforeseen circumstances, including maternal illness or the arrival of family members from outside the immediate household, make that a sensible strategy. In the unlikely event that a mother’s milk is inadequate, it’s important to have an alternative.
On a pound-for-pound basis, babies have a greater requirement for fluids than older persons. Concentrated or powdered formulas need to be reconstituted with safe water. (A word of caution: always read the label carefully and follow directions exactly. It is not uncommon for babies to die because of improperly prepared formula, even in the United States.)
Well water sometimes contains high levels of nitrates. Formula made with nitrate-containing water can cause serious problems during infancy. When ingested nitrate combines with the hemoglobin of red blood cells, it binds oxygen so firmly that it cannot be released to the tissues. Unless treated promptly, the resulting condition– methemoglobinemia– can be fatal. Every family that depends on well water should have it tested periodically, long before disaster strikes and certainly before using it to make infant formula. Google: EPA well water or check this web site out.
This is another example of the value of breastfeeding. Nitrates do not pass into breastmilk. Even if the mother consumes nitrates in her drinking water, the infant will not develop methemoglobinemia.
The Need for Vitamins and Other Supplements
In spite of the best disaster preparations, it’s likely that optimal nutrition will be a challenge at TEOTWAWKI. Fresh plant foods will become scarce, especially in northern climates. Almost all forms of preserved foods lose some nutrient value. It’s important to maintain a supply of vitamins and minerals as insurance against these losses.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are always a second choice after natural foods, but they are better than nothing. Nursing mothers and their infants should both receive supplements as long as they are available. Vitamin tablets have a fairly long shelf life, if they are in a tightly sealed container and stored in a cool place. Refrigeration helps to make them last longer, but it will not be an option at TEOTWAWKI. Liquid vitamins for infants may maintain their potency for as long as about two years, depending on the preparation. I recommend Enfamil® Tri-Vi-Sol drops or a generic equivalent that contain vitamins A, C, and D for all infants.
Breastfed babies do not require an iron supplement, but those who are on an evaporated milk formula do. An infant diet that consists largely of cow’s milk is a common cause of iron-deficiency anemia. The iron in breastmilk is absorbed much more efficiently than that in cow’s milk, and later addition of solid foods usually precludes the development of iron-deficiency anemia in breastfed infants. Today’s infant cereals and formula are often fortified with iron, but these will not be available at TEOTWAWKI. One or two bottles of infant iron drops cost little and are easy to store. Babies born prematurely, even those that are breastfed, may develop iron deficiency.
Steps to Take to Safeguard Infant Nutrition
It may not seem necessary for parents that do not expect to have more children to store the foods described above, but conditions can change rapidly. Unplanned pregnancy, the return of grown children, or the arrival of unprepared friends or relatives may require a supply of infant-appropriate food. Having infant formula, baby food, cereal, and vitamin supplements on hand for barter is a consideration.
Commercial infant formula and canned evaporated milk can be purchased by the case for convenient storage. It’s necessary to be aware of their expiration dates and to rotate stocks accordingly. The shelf life of baby formula is usually about two years, but it retains its nutritional value far longer. About six months prior to that date, consider giving it to a family with a young infant, a food bank, or a church organization. The legitimate tax deduction offsets part of the replacement cost.
Commercial baby food, including dry cereals and jars of meat, fruits, and vegetables can be stored like any other and should be rotated in the same manner. Although it is designed for infants below the age of one year, it is palatable and appropriate for any age when “grown-up” food becomes scarce.
Approximately 70 percent of the calories of modern humans comes directly or indirectly from cereal grains. Although we seem to have adapted to them fairly well, the deficiencies of cereals contribute to a variety of health problems. In undeveloped countries the dependence on cereals has increased the risk of iron deficiency, making it the single most common cause of anemia. Not only are cereal grains poor in iron, they contain antinutrients that block the absorption of this critical mineral. With relatively little protein and lacking some vitamins, a grain-based diet has resulted in high infant mortality, lower life expectancy, and disorders of teeth and bones. These are important considerations at TEOTWAWKI. Recommendations for a survivalist strategy almost always include large stores of grains, especially wheat and rice. These should make up no more than about half of the daily caloric intake at any age and especially during early childhood.
Conclusion: The Fourth B
In addition to beans, bandaids, and bullets, prudent people at any age or circumstance need to consider the fourth B– baby food. Whether for your own family’s survival, the arrival of unprepared families, or simply for barter purposes, having infant formula, baby cereal, jars of pureed vegetables, and vitamin drops constitutes wise preparation.
The minimum amount should be about two weeks’ supply. That will get you through the temporary disruption of a hurricane, severe winter storm, moderate earthquake, or similar non-TEOTWAWKI disaster.
Every pediatrician knows that infants are not just little people. Parents know that too, but they might not consider that when planning for TEOTWAWKI. Infants’ nutritional needs are unique, but they are not complicated. I hope that these suggestions will ensure a good outcome for our most vulnerable members in the event of a severe challenge to our survival.