The infant formula crisis has arrived. Now what?
A few ideas of how to look at a potentially-catastrophic threat to our youngest citizens rationally, with an eye to solving the problems
I'm not a new mother, myself, but I'm actively planning to have a family in the very near future, and many of my fellow young ladies are either doing the same or experiencing the challenges and joys of new motherhood.
The formula shortage seems to be a catastrophic event, and the dialogue on Twitter, including the dialogue from conservatives, has been markedly unhelpful. Many truly conservative people are saying truly conservative things (perhaps unsurprisingly), like, "You should be nursing your child anyway," "Formula is full of garbage!", and, "It's a scam, anyway". What these people apparently fail to realize is that as science has advanced, so has our ability to help premature babies survive - babies that haven't the slightest chance of learning to "latch" appropriately in order to breastfeed. This great human achievement has made many NICU wards reliant on formula - and it's a great thing that such a thing is even a possibility. But even full-term babies sometimes fail to latch, through no fault of anyone. These babies also require formula.
So where is an increasingly-desperate parent of a hungry infant to turn? Not a pediatrician, it turns out. When it comes to making formula at home using old methods like combining powdered milk and some form of sugar in water or using goat's milk, they just say, "Don't", and find this response patently unacceptable. I am a heavily cynical person, and even I know that one of the last vestige of pure human motivation is the desire to care for their children, and that includes making sure their children do not starve (obviously). For children’s doctors to tell parents that they should not take every reasonable step within their power to make sure their children are fed seems intolerable. I can imagine the frustration. It's times like these I can tell I was born to be a mother, because it's a very primal feeling of righteous indignation. Not to worry! Pediatricians offices have some samples for you, if you ask, I'm assured - until, of course, those samples run out, as they inevitably will.
On that note, it was brought to my attention that pediatricians offices get kickbacks from recommending certain formula companies to new parents. I'll let the reader make of that what they will, but I will include this one link. It contains a long list of citations, and I trust that my readers are smart enough and interested enough in the truth to investigate fully (more on media/journalistic literacy in future days).
From conservatives, we have "Breast is best!" and "If you're not nursing, you're a bad mother", and from pediatricians, we have "Don't make it at home," and "Ask our offices for samples!". So what have we from the left? Oh, right: They are sending $44 BILLION (with a 'B') to a foreign country that we are in no manner responsible for helping. No doubt some of those funds will return to our dear leaders in the form of corruption, which Ukraine is globally known for, and I'm sure "10% for the big guy" will pad Joe Biden's pocket. And a major plant remains shut down as the FDA refuses to allow it to reopen after a bacterial contamination and recall.
As is typical in the case of actual emergencies, the ordinary person is left to their own devices, so it seems like a good time to revisit the wisdom of our our parents and grandparents. How did they raise so many of us without big formula companies and profit-led pediatricians pushing these products? There are a few options.
This is a good time to drive home that although I have a background in the healthcare system and took prerequisite classes for nursing, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I have degrees in the field. Just some common sense and my own investigation.
There appear to be a few choices.
1. La Leche League is an organization that helps connect moms seeking breastmilk and unable to provide it to moms who have too much breastmilk for their child, for whatever reason. Here is their site. They have resources, history, and locators.
2. Goats' milk: I was raised in the country, and we kept and milked goats. In the past, humans have fed their infants milk from many different sources when breastmilk wasn't available, and this seems to be one of the better options. Here are two trustworthy health sources I often rely on for my own information that can help get things pointed in the right direction or answer questions about whether goatmilk is a good idea for individual cases.
3. The ol' evaporated/powdered milk and Karo syrup approach: This I have heard of anecdotally as a seat-of-the-pants approach that parents took to keep their kids healthy and full during hard times, including the Depression (perhaps a harbinger of the next few years? Time will tell, but it does not hurt to be prepared). Here is a history of baby formula, and here is a list of crazy things that used to go into formulas.
I obviously cannot recommend for or against a method, but my common sense says that home-making baby formula is probably not the best idea unless you are actually living under a heap of rubble in a war zone or hiding in a nuclear bunker. Last-resort choice, for sure - although it can be easily observed that many healthy older adults today were raised with this kind of formula, if they needed formula during their infancy.
This crisis is distinctly alarming to me and triggers my maternal instincts to a great degree, and I hope that this little pile of research I've pulled together gets people going in the right direction to figure out what to do if things do go south, as they seem to be already. Godspeed!