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.