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Haiti and Breastfeeding: Do Not Send Formula

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Update February 16th: Do not send breastmilk donations. See my post here.
Updated January 26:
An urgent call for breast milk donors for Haiti.
Updated January 21: Unicef Press Release:
Unicef has just released a strongly worded press release regarding the Haiti earthquake and breastfeeding. Along with the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme, Unicef says that every effort should be made to support breastfeeding. Furthermore, the agencies say people should not donate either formula (breast milk substitues) or human milk . To read the full release, click here. And here are some excerpts:

Most mothers initiate breastfeeding in Haiti, and the majority of infants less than six months of age were at least partially breastfed prior to the earthquake. At this stage it is critical to encourage and support mothers to initiate breastfeeding immediately after the delivery, exclusively breastfeed up to six months and for those with infants below six months who ‘mix feed’ to revert to exclusive breastfeeding. Nonbreastfed infants are at especially high risk and need early identification and targeted skilled support, including re-establishing breastfeeding (relactation)…
In accordance with internationally accepted guidelines, donations of infant formula, bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products should not be made. Experience with past emergencies has shown an excessive quantity of products, which are poorly targeted, endangering infants’ lives. Any procurement of breast milk substitutes should be based on careful needs assessment and in coordination with UNICEF. Human milk donations while safe when processed and pasteurized in a human milk bank also require fully functioning cold chains. Such conditions are not currently met in Haiti and human milk donations cannot be used at present. All queries and any donations that do appear should be directed to UNICEF, the designated nutrition coordinating agency in Haiti.

Updated January 21:
From the New York Times:

(A) widely circulated blog post, “No One Needs Your Old Shoes: How Not to Help in Haiti,” was written shortly after the earthquake by Alanna Shaikh, an international relief and development expert working in Tajikistan. It suggested giving money, not goods; going to volunteer only if you have medical expertise and are vetted by a reputable organization; and supporting the far less immediate task of rebuilding Haiti…
Ms. Shaikh gets particularly worked up about misguided donations of baby formula. “A woman who is breast-feeding is given a can of formula when clean water to mix it is unavailable and her baby needs the support of her immune system more than ever,” Ms. Shaikh said.
“Baby formula,” she said firmly, “does nothing for babies in the middle of a disaster and can even be fatal.”

Updated Jan. 19th: More information about Haiti and supporting breastfeeding mothers and young children…
From the Motherwear Blog, there is a post, Breastmilk Donations for Haiti and Shortage of Donor Milk in the U.S.

You may recall the theme of the 2009 World Breastfeeding Week…”Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response. Are You Ready?” Timely, yes. Ominous, scarily so. But never has the need for breastfeeding been so great. The International Lactation Consultant Association is “urging all health care providers and rescue workers to include breastfeeding support as a vital part of disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts.” They are also discouraging donations of infant formula since this can increase illness and disease in an emergency.

And finally, more from the breastfeeding advocacy group, Best For Babes.
Angela at Breastfeeding123 has a good overview of why breastfeeding is so important in times of emergencies. She writes:
The devastating earthquake this week in Haiti again brings to the forefront the issue of infant feeding in emergencies. You might recall how dangerous it is for relief efforts to send artificial baby milk to disaster sites due to a lack of sanitary water, inadequate supplies, the increased risk of deadly respiratory infections and diarrhea in non-breastfed babies, and poor access to medical care.

And Tanja at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog writes about how The World Health Organization issued a press release saying that “ensuring breastfeeding is continued” is one of the five urgent health priorities for Haiti.

Original Post:

The news from Haiti is horrible. Just look at these pictures on the front page of The New York Times website.
The NYT has a list of agencies that are accepting donations.
Also, I got an email from New York State Senator Liz Krueger that has this suggestion:
Text “HAITI” to “90999″ to make a $10 donation.
2025 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
(800) REDCROSS (733-2767)
In times of man-made or natural disasters, breastfeeding is critical. I’ll be watching the news and breastfeeding websites to see if there’s anything that develops on this front.

4 Responses to “Haiti and Breastfeeding: Do Not Send Formula”

If you are considering donating, please choose to support a group that will help preserve/support breastfeeding rather than a group that will be handing out formula donations. Emergency Nutrition Netowrk ( has links to a few groups that are already on the ground in Haiti that have a proven track record of supporting breastfeeding during disasters.

As another suggestion, The Human Milk Banking Association of North America has a better track record. The International Breast Milk Project is encouraging would-be donors to contact them at this time, anyway, because IBMP is not set up to do this yet.

Lots of these babies have mothers that are no longer alive! Some of them do not have access to a lactating woman. Are you saying that a baby with no breast milk available should not get formula? This is the extreme radical left talking. I have seen first hand babies die from dehydration and malnutrition. If only we had some formula to feed them…they would be here today.
I suppose you will edit my comments to further your radical agenda. The truth is while breastfeeding is best, babies should not be allowed to die from lack of proper nutrition! Formula does have its uses!

In response to the commenter named “what,” who posted a comment on Jan. 27… I think you have inferred something incorrectly from my blog posts. Of course a baby should be given whatever means of nourishment is available… and if that means formula, then that’s what it is. The big concern with formula is that there has to be a way to sterilize bottles and nipples and get clean water. But what I hope you would understand about my blog post is that I am reporting what the major relief organizations (Unicef, The World Health Organization and the World Food Programme) are requesting of donors.

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