Children in Crisis

A video from the Infant Feeding Support for Refugee Children group.

‪#‎SafelyFed‬ Refugee children in ‪#‎Idomeni‬ are in crisis. Learn how you can give donations of money to ensure that all infants – breastfed and non-breastfed – receive skilled support for safe nutrition in emergencies.

Visit www.safelyfed.org/donate

Infants and young children under 2 are especially vulnerable to illness, malnutrition, and death during humanitarian crises. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in emergency situations artificial feeding increases the risk of death by diarrhoeal by 1300% as compared to breastfed infants. A baby may die within days of the onset of diarrhoeal disease. The younger the baby, the greater the risks of artificial feeding.

In this emergency, the transit context introduces serious challenges to safer formula feeding. Mass donations of powder formula, bottles, and teats increases the risks of infant death by diarrhea and malnutrition. This is because where refugee families are throughout Greece, they do not have access to the potable water, sanitation, or the supplies needed to properly prepare formula or scrub and sterilize bottles and teats.

UNICEF, WHO, WFP, International Medical Corps, and Save the Children have called for breastfeeding support and outline conditions for use of breast milk substitutes: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_57962.html

When artificial feeding is required, ready-to-feed (UHT) formula is recommended for infants less than 6 months. Non-breastfed infants more than 6 months and toddlers may have UHT milk or yogurt, along with healthy, age-appropriate complementary foods. Cup feeding is more hygienic than bottle feeding.

Breastfed infants should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and then breastfeeding should continue for as long as possible, up to two years and beyond. After 6 months breastfed infants may receive healthy, age-appropriate complementary foods. Relactation is possible for mothers who have stopped breastfeeding and wish to begin again. Cross-nursing (“wet nursing”) is recommended before offering breastmilk substitutes in emergencies. Formula should be used a last resort when all other options have been ruled out.

GIVE MONEY, NOT FORMULA OR BOTTLES to organizations providing infant and young child feeding aid. Donations of money allow them to purchase exactly the supplies needed, when needed, to deliver infant feeding support that does not put infants at further risk.

Learn about the IFE Core Group recommendations for supporting families with infants and young children in transit.

These recommendations have been translated into easy-to-use documents for aid workers and families: http://safelyfed.org/resources/

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Breastfeeding among Refugee Mothers on the Balkan Route

In this post, Dr. Vera Dimitrievska reports on the status of infant and young child feeding among refugee families in transit along the Balkan Route. In November, 2015, UNICEF reported that 52% of those crossing the borders in the Balkans were women and children. With a lack of access of basic health services and a shortage of translators who speak their native language on this route, many mothers with babies also do not have access to information regarding recommended breastfeeding and safe infant and young child feeding in emergencies practices.

read more Breastfeeding among Refugee Mothers on the Balkan Route

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Feeding bouts and nipple shields (heading into battle or feeding a baby?)

When did we start talking about breastfeeding as if it was akin to playing a full contact sport? (Like when a feed at the breast is called a “bout.”) And, why are some lactation technologies referred to as body armor? You know, nipple shields, breast shells, and breast pumps called the DEFENDER. Are we talking about going into battle here or nursing a baby? How did the lactating breast become a combat zone between mothers and their babies?

read more Feeding bouts and nipple shields (heading into battle or feeding a baby?)

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Feeding babies while homeless in Hawai’i

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak at the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference in Chapel Hill, NC. The conference is devoted to highlighting breastfeeding-related research, practice, advocacy, and policy. The meeting theme for 2015 was “Breastfeeding, Social Justice, and Equity: Reflecting, Reclaiming, and Re-visioning,” in celebration of the meeting’s tenth anniversary. I presented my research on maternal-child health disparities in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations in Hawai’i. What follows are some highlights from this presentation.

read more Feeding babies while homeless in Hawai’i

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About that BMJ Editorial…

From where I’m standing, the regulation of anonymous online milk sales is a red herring. Our efforts and resources should be poured into making breastfeeding an attainable reality for all mothers, not just the privileged few. Critically ill infants need human milk to survive and thrive, but all infants in need should have access to human milk. If regulation or policy can help to level the playing field so that increased breastfeeding and access to safe donor milk may become a reality, then that’s a conversation worth having. But, I would rather get busy tearing down barriers that stand in the way of mothers breastfeeding their own babies and figuring out ways of delivering breast milk from healthy donors, wherever and whenever it is needed.

read more About that BMJ Editorial…

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Ethnographies of Breastfeeding

Understanding demedicalization as acts of resistance is also important in refocusing attention on the ways individuals exercise agency and seek empowerment despite hegemonic influences; a focus on demedicalization leads to an understanding of the everyday practices of resistance to medicalization. This analysis is on the ways in which milk sharing is enacted to demedicalize women’s bodies, the fluids they produce, and the babies they nourish.

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Taking milk from strangers

Milk sharing has deep social (and some might argue biological) roots. It’s not going to just go away because health authorities caution against it. It is part of our past, our present, and most likely our future. What is happening online is just scratching the surface. Clearly, we need a better understanding of the social context of milk sharing risk and risk reduction strategies people use.

read more Taking milk from strangers