Breastfeeding to Save Money and Lives

There is a bit of a debate between Moms about breast milk vs formula.  There’s even some debate in prepper circles about whether to store formula or not.  I should preface this post I think, with a disclaimer,  I’ve never used formula.  I know my mother fed me a little waaay back in the day, but even then most of my experience was with breast milk.  :-D

Breast milk is Complex – There are all sorts of things that Moms pass to their babies in breast milk.  Immunity against common illnesses are passed via antibodies. Studies have shown that breast-fed infants have half the incidence of diarrheal illness as formula-fed infants.  Breast milk changes to meet the needs of the baby. During a feeding, the baby gets foremilk at first, which is great at quenching thirst and keeping baby hydrated. Towards the end of the feeding the baby gets hindmilk which is creamier and satisfies hunger.  There’s also the colostrum that is produced in the first day or two, I’ve heard that called liquid gold, and while the price may seem like it, I doubt there’s anything in a formula powder to match it.    In terms of nutrition, the proteins in breast milk are more easily digested than in formula or cow’s milk.  The calcium and iron in breast milk are also more easily absorbed.  Leukocytes are living cells that are only found in breast milk.  They help fight infection.  It is the antibodies, living cells, enzymes, and hormones that make breast milk ideal.  These cannot be added to formula.   When combined with the chances of bacteria entering formula either through the water its mixed with or an improperly cleaned bottle, its clear that breast milk is safer.

Breast milk is Better for Mom – Breastfeeding provides health benefits for the mother. It assists the uterus in returning to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces post-partum bleeding, as well as assisting the mother in returning to her pre-pregnancy weight. It’s all about calories in vs calories out, and when you are sending out 500-800 calories a day through your breasts, it’s easy to manage a diet so that some of that is coming from stored fat deposits.  Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer later in life.  Plus, breast feeding is easier than formula on a daily basis, no bottles, no measuring, no waiting for water to get hot, just pop out a breast, pop it in baby’s mouth, and viola, lunch is served. This gets me into the benefits during a SHTF event.

Better During an Emergency – Easier to transport, deploy and keep sanitary, breast milk wins hands down for a SHTF event.  That’s not even counting the cost aspect.  Half the people I know on WIC are on it to help pay for the expensive formula that their baby needs because he/she can’t tolerate the cheap stuff.  Only some of those people are using formula for valid medical reasons, most seem to be using formula out of some combination of laziness, misinformation or vanity.  Some of the accounts I read from mothers during the Katrina disaster really solidified my stance on this issue.  Babies were suffering because there wasn’t any clean water or formula to be had for days or weeks.  Mothers who had breast fed babies fared much better. Some even took other children to breast, what’s known as wet-nursing, and probably saved some lives.   That’s my recommendation for SHTF feeding of babies. Either feed them at your own breast, or make arrangements for a wet nurse.   Storing formula would be expensive, and there’s no guarantee the baby in question could stomach it, or that you’ll have the time/ability to keep bottles and water sterile.

Some Things to Store to Facilitate Breastfeeding – If you do want to store some items to help a breastfeeding Mom, you could store some nice lanolin. Breastfeeding is hard for the first week or two, and lanolin really helps abused nipples.  Fenugreek seed can be made into a milk encouraging tea, whether the mom is new to breastfeeding or just needing the help upping her supply to take on a second nurser. Since it’s a whole seed, it will store better than some other herbs.  Prenatal vitamins are also great for nursing moms. All the nutrition in the milk is coming from Mom, so she needs all the vitamins and minerals she can get. There are some great books out there as well, I really found the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to help, and Ina May Gaskin of course gets a nod.

-Calamity Jane

21 comments… add one
  • Anonymous January 24, 2012, 7:45 am

    good stuff to know ,thanks for shareing

    Reply
  • je redbird January 24, 2012, 9:56 am

    C.Jane,
    Just a short comment here to say that there are some mothers whose breast milk does not do the job it is supposed to. I was one of those mothers. I wanted and did breast feed my kids, but it did not satisfy them. We HAD to supplement with formula. Can’t tell you why it was that way, just that it was. I don’t think my kids would have survived with the supplemental formula. Do I think breast is better – you bet. But you need to keep in mind it doesn’t work in all cases. So store a little formula just in case.

    Reply
    • Calamity Jane January 24, 2012, 11:13 am

      Oh sure, all sorts of people find formula useful. I’m just saying, it’s expensive and it expires and it never measures up to breast milk. And the part of your statement where you don’t know why the kiddos needed it, makes me curious.
      In a SHTF situation I would try supplementing with wet nursing, or some combination of breastmilk mixed with cereal before I’d try to find and deal with formula. I already store rice and oats, so I wouldn’t have to add anything to the storage rotation if the cereal supplementing worked.

      Reply
      • Odd Questioner January 24, 2012, 5:28 pm

        One alternative if you have the livestock handy would be to mix in the needed vitamins into goat’s milk.

        Cow milk would be a bad idea, if I recall right… not sure how many other mammals’ milk types could be used as a stand-in, though.

        Reply
  • Sarah January 24, 2012, 10:18 am

    Great post Calamity! It makes me so sad to see women who dont breastfeed…all of the important nutrients and bonding time they are missing! Another point to make is that sometimes starting out breastfeeding can be difficult, it may take baby a week or two to learn how to do it properly. So don’t give up!

    Keep up the great posts…I’m enjoying the “female side of prepping” :)

    -=S

    Reply
  • momengineer January 24, 2012, 10:31 am

    I exclusively breastfed my daughters (even while working fulltime with the first one)…I agree that “breast is best”

    But…to play devils advocate here, if there were a big pandemic, etc that caused TSTHF… there is no way I could wet nurse an infant currently. I would have to have formula if I were to take in a friends/abandoned/orphaned child. Have I stored formula? no- not yet, still working on my food storage for my own children. But if I had an infant? Yes- I would store formula, even though I planned to breastfeed…cause you never know what will happen, the mom could die- no wetnurse available, etc.

    Reply
    • Calamity Jane January 24, 2012, 11:04 am

      I always like devils advocates. :-) I’ll put this to you though, why do you say “no way I could wet nurse an infant currently.” I’ve read reports of sisters or friends or even daughters of deceased mothers inducing lactation to save a baby. I have never done this, and the specifics are hard to find, but it seems to be a matter of nipple stimulation and taking some milk encouraging herbs if you can.
      Here’s one of the better articles I found.
      http://www.surrogacy.com/medres/article/lac.html
      It does mention that it’s likely the baby will still need some supplemental nutrition, so I’m willing to believe that you either need to be already producing for another infant or something like that to totally pull it off.
      It still seems a cheaper solution than storing tons of formula.

      Reply
      • momengineer January 24, 2012, 11:16 am

        Well…I’ve had a hysterectomy if you must know. ;)

        I have read of “re-lactating” and honestly, I think it would be difficult even in the best of times…much less a stressful situation. Just remember, that while formula has become “an alternative” to breastfeeding today…I believe it was orginally devloped for just the reason I mentioned- death of mother and lack of alternatives. I’m not planning on stockpiling formula, but I don’t have an infant. I have heard of stockpiling liquid vitamins, and making “homemade” formula….that might be an alternative- you can always use the vitamins else where if needed…

        Reply
        • Calamity Jane January 24, 2012, 6:11 pm

          OMG, I’m so sorry, I can’t believe I forgot something like that as a possibility. Breast cancers and removals, too, definitely need a different mindset for planning for infant care. Thanks for pointing out my logic gap. And for doing it so nicely.
          Homemade formula.. could it be done? Maybe a mix of powdered milk and vitamins and maybe powdered cereals? An interesting thought.

          Reply
  • sam January 24, 2012, 10:42 am

    wifey just finished breastfeeding our second son after about 11 months. he started biting and it was too painful for her. she still pumps, but the volume is just not the same.

    it is hard work and i respect wifey more than anything for the 2am feedings and 4am feedings and the constant disruptions of all of her activities. beyond the pregnancy, she put her life on hold for another 2 years to provide perfect nutrition for our boys.

    the benefits may be equally distributed between mom and baby. wifey has an incredible bond with both boys. they play farther away from her at parks than other kids because they intrinsically know that she will be there for them jsut as she has every single time they’re hungry. she has a reduced risk of several different kinds of cancer. many cases of conjuctivitis have been treated successfully without antibiotic eye drops by expressing a couple squirts into the affected eye. same goes for a runny nose. also, wifey is prone to anxiety and depression, so we worried about post-partum depression for her, but oxytocin released during breastfeeding stimulates pleasure centers in the brain and reduces those risks.

    the sneakiest thing the corporations have ever done is convince women that it’s ok to supplement breastfeeding with formula. babies can be lazy and breast feeding is hard work for them initially. they need to work their mouth and tongue muscles into shape in a way that is not required for bottle feeding.

    i think there are a number of factors that improve a woman’s ability to successfully breastfeed:
    1) supportive partner. seriously, wake up with her and get her a glass of water or a snack. you’ll appreciate her effort more if you help out. she’ll think “oh, he cares enough about this to wake up, so i guess i’ll care more too.”
    2) take a class and read books. your partner should read the books and attend the class, too. along that same end, ask your elders about tips and tricks. this was formerly a practice that required no formal learning because it was a skill taught intra/intergenerationally by other successful breastfeeding moms.
    3) you don’t need products. nipple guards, creams, etc. do not help out with initial irritation. they keep the nipple from callousing appropriately the way nature intended. toughen your nipples in the shower during your last trimester.
    4) realistic expectations help. you will be tired. your breasts will change. if you work outside the home, you will have to find time to pump. people will look at you weird when you breastfeed at the mall. you will be envious of your non-breastfeeding friends who have babies that sleep all night long.
    5) having lots of high calorie, easy to prepare snacks is important. wifey would often eat a fourth meal in the middle of the night and i was very happy that we planned on that to improve her access to calories that she needed for the baby.
    6) be willing to experiment with your own diet. cranky babies often respond to elements in milk that are due to the mother’s diet. our oldest did not like it when mom ate spicy foods.
    7) tune out medical providers who excessively worry about benchmark statistics on weight gain, etc. if your baby loses a bit of weight after or before the first well-baby check-up, it’s no big deal. just breastfeed the baby more often even if the baby is not getting milk because the biofeedback loop between mother and baby is what tells the mom’s body to make more milk. also, it’s amazing how disconcerting unintended negativity is for new parents. nurses and doctors are not careful people when it comes to judgmental comments. it’s a partner’s job to remind the mom that her body is perfectly capable and perfectly evolved. it’s a partner’s job to re-double his efforts to support mom.

    Reply
  • JeanneS January 24, 2012, 3:03 pm

    I nursed my firstborn for 18 months without any problems whatsoever, once we got past the problem of painful nipples due to her not latching on properly (I’d never even heard of a lactation specialist back then!). She was incredibly healthy and I lost all my pregnancy weight (over 50 lbs) by the time she was 6 months old. I weaned her sooner than I would have liked, because I was foolish enough to listen to people who told me she was “too old” to still be nursing, and as a result she started sucking her thumb and didn’t stop until she was 8 or 9 (she had never sucked her thumb before I quit nursing her).

    Then I had my second daughter. Before she was a month old, I had a case of mastitis — and, not recognizing what it was, wound up in the ER with a fever of 105, literally too delirious to walk or talk. As soon as the 10 days of antibiotics were done, I got another case of mastitis on the other side (luckily caught it early, before I had to go to the ER again!). 10 days later, another case on the first side! (And I swear I took those antibiotics on time, exactly as instructed.) I’d keep antibiotics on hand if TSHTF, just in case for nursing mothers!

    Neither baby lost weight as newborns; my younger daughter gained a full pound of weight in her first 11 days (it sure surprised the pediatrician at her first checkup!). Neither baby had anything other than breastmilk for the first 4 months; my oldest actually hated babyfood every time I tried to feed it to her, and went straight to table food at 7 months. (My younger was a lot bigger kid, and happily went to supplemental feeds of cereal & babyfood vegies at 4 months.) Neither baby bit me more than twice when they started teething — screaming in pain and yanking them off the breast cured them of that PDQ. :)

    I nursed the younger one until she turned 3, after it was explained to her every day for about a month beforehand that, “Big girls who use the potty already and who are turning 3 are ready to stop nursing.” I’m not a granola mom, but I didn’t want her sucking her thumb or having any of the insecurities that I saw in other kids weaned too early. By then it was only comfort-nursing anyway, maybe once a day at most, certainly not for nutrition. By then, I’d put up with at least a year of (probably well-meaning) criticism for nursing a toddler, including my mother (who swore that nursing a daughter too long would make her a lesbian later in life; that daughter is now 19 & definitely likes boys) and the pediatrician, who shut her mouth about my nursing a 2-year-old when I questioned if she criticized parents who let their 2-year-olds have a bottle.

    And since nobody has mentioned it yet — breastfed babies, at least until they start supplemental feeds, have virtually no digestive problems (such as constipation) and really mild-smelling poo. No baby poo is nice, of course, but formula-fed baby poo is utterly terrifying toxic waste compared to breastmilk-fed baby poo.

    Reply
  • country girl January 24, 2012, 4:19 pm

    I agree that breast milk is a better choice. I disagree that it makes any difference on health and longevity. Logically it should but emperically it does not. Probably more then half the people alive in the U.S. today were not breastfed. Their health outcomes are no different then those who were breastfed.

    Now, I’ll tell you what; the whole breastfeeding controversy has gone way past common sense. It is like a religion. Women are being accosted on the street by crazy women and being accused of being a bad mother for giving their kids formula. It is insane how polarizing this issue has become. People who are usually calm and rational seem to think it is OK to be insulting and rude almost to the point of violence. Beware the crazies…

    Reply
  • Jason January 24, 2012, 6:40 pm

    We adopted our last child from birth – in the birthing room & took him straight home. We had a friend who gave birth at the same time & she volunteered to pump & give us breast milk – what a commitment & a great friend. She happily did it for us for the first 8 months & that is all our little guy had – no formula.

    I am a big believer in breast milk because of the health benefits.

    Reply
  • KC January 24, 2012, 9:13 pm

    Calamity Jane-

    Thank You for the wonderful article on Breast-Feeding Awareness. As an advocate of the practice of over twenty-five years and a proud supporter of La Leche League International both with time and financial contributions, I completely and unabashedly support breast-feeding both nationally and internationally. While I understand the limitations of those who cannot practice, I can only recommend that all females who can at least make an honest attempt as to provide the best start for a developing child.

    Reply
  • T.R. January 24, 2012, 9:57 pm

    Well ……..If TSHTF is long term , then no more formula is being produced . You then have to rely on your preps until they run out …..and they always do . When they run out …… your baby still needs to eat , so bust out with what god gave ya and nature intended .

    Reply
    • Jason January 25, 2012, 9:54 am

      A shotgun?

      Reply
  • millenniumfly February 3, 2012, 10:25 pm

    The formula companies have done one of the greatest dis-service to our youth of anything I can think of. You just can’t beat the benefits of breastfeeding.

    Reply
  • TiredOldGuy February 6, 2012, 6:03 am

    Just to answer Odd Questioners comment, donkey milk is the best non-human milk source for children. It is fairly common in third world countries to use donkeys in this way. They are also far easier (IMHO) to keep than horses or cattle.

    Reply

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