So the evening news has noticed what the Wall Street Journal pointed out back in January; we have a baby formula shortage. This is very much Not Good. Unfortunately, the MSM and too many other people leaving comments on various spots on the internet seem to think this is a light and passing problem. “Mother’s milk is best!” is the common snark, with various levels of “how can you be so stupid and lazy not to know that?” often attached.
Which ticks me off, because it’s clear said commenters have never had a tiny infant mammal depending on them when everything goes wrong. And there is so much that can go wrong.
I’ve been involved in a lot of such care. Whenever the ewes lambed or the goats kidded, one of the first things that had to be done was to milk them for some colostrum (the first milk with all the major antibodies), and then freeze it. Usually we didn’t need it, but every once in a while we’d have an orphan. Or the mother rejected them. Or the mother developed mastitis and couldn’t give healthy milk. Then we needed that frozen supply, so much. Formula later, if they lived.
Mother’s milk won’t help if the mother can’t produce it.
Modern medicine has vastly lowered the maternal mortality rate, but that doesn’t nearly solve the problem. What are often lifesaving medicines for the mother – chemotherapy, psychiatric meds, penicillin – can be lethal to a breastfeeding baby. Imagine, as really does happen, you’ve been diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. You likely hold off on treatment as long as you can, and probably have a C-section to deliver the baby early but viable. Then you must have medicine. Chemo in particular tends to kill the cancer just a little faster than it kills you. You cannot pass those toxins along to a child.
Tell that mother a formula shortage isn’t a big deal.
And then there’s the child’s side of the equation. Between unexpected allergies and various metabolic diseases, breast milk is not healthy for some babies. They will sicken and die. Still others never seem to latch onto a nipple, and far too many bite.
That last one I can attest to in my own family. One of the boys was a biter, and at one point bit his mother so hard she screamed. From that point on he refused to take a breast ever again, no matter how hungry he was. It was a bottle or nothing.
I particularly want to take a blunt object to people who think mothers bottle-feeding “for convenience” should “just” start nursing again. Lactation does not work that way. Yes, you can induce lactation again, but it can take weeks, or months, and it is not a sure thing. In the meantime the baby still needs to eat. And anyone who wants to bring back hired wetnurses ought to go read up on exactly why they used to be called “angel makers”.
This also applies to anyone who thinks you can just use condensed milk and karo syrup “like the old days”. Let me introduce you to severe nutritional deficiencies and allergic reactions, you… you… I’ve known people who were raised on that. 0 of 10, would not recommend.
People snarking about mother’s milk being the best “even if it’s inconvenient” remind me way too much of those who go on about “oh, handwashing is the best way to treat fabrics!” When they’ve never had to handle a whole family’s worth of laundry, day in and day out, in their lives.
It’s not always the best. It’s not always possible. Read up before you look down on someone. The answers are likely not as cut, dried, and easy as you think.