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Human Milk 4 Human Babies After Japan Tsunami
We at peaceful parenting, along with the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network, express our sincere condolences to the people of Japan.
In emergency situations like this, ensuring access to human milk for human babies saves many lives. However, this milk must come from mothers already on the ground in Japan. To those looking on and longing to help, your compassion is meaningful and heartfelt, but please place it into some of the suggestions below and do not send infant formula or pumped milk to Japan.
UNICEF has demonstrated time and time again that formula-feeding during disaster situations brings about infection, diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition and death to a much greater degree than if formula would have never been sent in the first place. In tsunami struck areas, where clean water is hard to come by, feeding babies artificially truly is a formula for disaster.
Following the earthquake in Indonesia, UNICEF had to issue a stop on all donations of formula because of the havoc it was reeking on Indonesian babies. UNICEF has found that when formula is sent to disaster locations, babies under the age of two are fed this artificial concoction (often mixed with unclean water) twice as often as they would be if formula was not donated, and relief organizations were allowed to work with mothers and babies solely on their own (with monetary support from outsiders). In addition, UNICEF has found that infants under six months of age fed donated formula (often sent from well meaning Americans) are twice as likely to get problematic diarrhea than those who do not receive any artificial feeds. Babies between six and 23 months of age are five times more likely to develop diarrhea and other dehydrating and digestive health complications if fed formula post-disaster, than they were prior to the event.
The very best solution is for a baby to be nursed at his mother's breast, and if she is no longer there for him, to be nursed by another mother. The Human Milk 4 Human Babies Japan chapter is open and mother-to-mother milk donations are underway as needed. If there is no way whatsoever for an orphaned baby to be fed human milk, then the CDC and AAP report it is much safer for the health of a disaster area infant to have ready-made formula (which does not need to be mixed with water). The Red Cross continues to emphasize that it is much faster for relief organizations to collect funds and distribute what is truly needed to the people on the ground, giving both mothers and babies necessary support and supplies, rather than having Americans send over unnecessary and often damaging items.
If a Japanese mother uses the donated formula (or pumped milk) you send over, she reduces or stops nursing her baby. This creates a problem first and foremost because her baby is not getting the immediate immuno protective properties of her milk at a time when s/he needs them the most. Second, it increases her risk of clogged ducts and mastitis or other breast infections, swelling, and discomfort from inadequate emptying and/or sudden weaning. And finally, artificially feeding with this donated formula or milk causes a rapid reduction in her own milk supply, and when donations run out, all of a sudden this mother is left with no way to feed her baby. No formula. No milk. No options.
More than anything, in the midst of a disaster as we are currently witnessing in Japan, human babies need human milk and mothers need support, shelter, food, and safety. So donate your dollars to help with relief organizations already on the ground, providing people with what they need, giving mothers and their nursing babies food and shelter, and pass along the availability of Human Milk 4 Human Babies milk sharing to parents you may know in Japan.
The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) also issued a press release this morning, discouraging any donation of formula to Japan due to the resulting increase in it brings in infant and nursing mother illness and disease rates. Instead, ILCA offers several suggestions for relief work in Japan or other disaster locations:
* Encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding to give infants sanitary, safe nutrition, to help fight infection and disease, and to keep infants warm.
* Feed the mother so she can, in turn, feed her infant.
* Provide a safe environment for breastfeeding or expressing milk, including providing a private area or a way to breastfeed discreetly, if the mother desires it.
* Assist mothers who are separated from their infants with regular milk removal to maintain their milk production and avoid engorgement. If a nursing child has passed away in the tragedy, there are additional suggestions offered here which can help her relieve pressure and avoid clogged ducts, mastitis and other infection. She may also wish to nurse another baby or give her milk to another mother. Many moms have stated that this gift - to donate their milk, or nurse a baby in need - was healing during the loss of their own child.
* Provide donor human milk from a human milk bank if a mother is injured or unable to directly breastfeed.
* Assist mothers with re-establishing their milk production if they have already weaned their baby. This process is referred to as "relactation" and it can save lives especially in disaster areas where human milk is the most healing liquid available.
* Provide mothers with accurate information and support to continue providing their infants with the best protection of all: mother’s milk. The baseline health provided by, and the medicinal properties of, mother's milk, simply cannot be replicated.
The Infant Feeding in Emergencies Core Group has resources for mothers, caregivers and families, as well as for emergency responders and health care providers.
Reasons NOT to Send Formula or Breastmilk to Haiti or other Disaster Locations
Formula For Disaster [video]
Infant Feeding in Emergencies Facebook Page
Infant and young child feeding in emergencies [Emergency Nutrition Network]
ILCA Japan Press Release [pdf]
Human Milk 4 Human Babies Japan
Human Milk 4 Human Babies Homepage
Breastfeeding Resources Page [books, websites, articles]