While the images of the death and destruction in Haiti have spurred an outpouring of support for the devastated nation, they are also re-igniting the never-ending debate about the best way to feed a baby. Since the catastrophic earthquake hit, many relief agencies have sent out email, Facebook and Twitter requests for baby formula, bottles and nipples to help nourish the littlest ones affected by the disaster. With so many wee ones orphaned in the wake of the tragedy, the call for food seemed natural.
But breastfeeding advocates and disaster response experts are sending a different message – send money, not food. As new mamas can attest, formula (in particular powder formula) feeding requires clean water for both food preparation and bottle cleaning. Given the current state of the Haitian water supply, and the lack of access to electricity to boil the water that does exist, formula feeding may be more harmful to Haitian babies than expected, risking contamination, infection, diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition and death.
Though US milk banks are collecting pumped breast milk for eventual distribution in Haiti, experts agree that sending money rather than milk, will allow relief agencies to provide mothers and wet nurses with the food and water they need to continue nursing babies, rather than having to provide them with unsafe bottles.
Have you donated to the Haiti relief efforts? If so, how?