If you’re the mother of babies or young children, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely caused you to feel all the feels: stress and anxiety, fear of the unknown, and perhaps even a glimmer of happiness that through all of the craziness, this unprecedented time has made time slow down just a little bit and has caused your family to cling even closer together.
As a pediatric Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, my daily life has been turned upside down too. I’ve now been stripped from my patients in clinic, forced to see them from a virtual platform where the element of personal touch is removed, and I’ve had to face a lot of frightened mothers who wonder ‘how in the heck’ they’re going to feed their babies during a time of quarantine and food shortage. My hope as a nutrition professional is that this blog post will not only dispel the myths you may have read swirling around social media these past few weeks, but also offer you practical tips for making the most of short and necessary trips to the grocery store.
Feeding Your Baby During Quarantine
Breastmilk & Formula
If you have worked with a pediatric Registered Dietitian, you have likely learned that breastmilk or formula should be the main source of your baby’s nutrition before 12 months of age. For you and your baby, this means multiple feeding sessions and using up several bags of frozen milk or scoops of formula. Many mothers are scared that finding their usual formula will be difficult right now as formula hoarding has been common. The main points I’d like to convey are:
- Never fear, despite what you may think right now there is NO national baby formula shortage. If you find that the formula you normally buy has disappeared from the shelf, it doesn’t mean it’s gone everywhere in the country, but rather your local store just hasn’t had the time to restock their inventory. This might mean that you need to get creative in how you purchase. Know that formula is sold at other places than just the major retailers. You can also find at your local pharmacies or hospitals and clinics which often have a supply. If you have the time to plan ahead, ordering online direct from the manufacturer is a guaranteed way of getting exactly what you need.
- Do NOT, I repeat do NOT attempt to make your own infant formula if you run out. The “homemade recipes” for infant formula you see on social media are highly dangerous and can put your baby at risk of dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies or malnutrition. You should also avoid using any form of milk other than breastmilk or formula. This includes cow, camel, goat, or plant based milks.
- When it comes to standard infant formulas, you can feel free to switch to another brand name or generic version without any problem with baby’s tolerance. All products, organic or not, are FDA approved and are nutritionally complete for your baby. Please leave specialty formulas such as hypoallergenic varieties or those created for premature babies for those who medically require them.
- If you are desperate, please talk to your pediatrician about your options in the short term. Or, if you receive WIC assistance, speak to your local WIC dietitian or nutritionist about where to get more. These professionals often have access to crisis lines or might even keep samples in their office to share.
If your baby is developmentally ready for solids, the quarantine might be a great opportunity to focus on further strengthening oral motor skills. This is a great time to explore more textures, variety, and food play to get your baby exposed to the sensory aspects of food in a pressure-free environment. Depending on your baby’s age they might also be ready to add in an additional feeding opportunity! A pattern for solids is one “meal” per day for a 6 month old, 2 “meals” for an 8-9 month old and 3 or more “meals” at 10 months and above. The nutrient of most concern for a growing infant is by far iron, so utilize the Beaba BabyCook to achieve the perfect texture from your staples like beans, lentils, red meats, or leafy greens.
While this time is full of uncertainty for each and every one of us, it doesn’t serve us well to let feelings of fear and anxiety cloak our everyday life like. Each baby deserves to be fed with confidence and wholesome nutrition, so set forth into the store with a plan knowing that you have the knowledge to give your family what they need to sustain and thrive.
Caroline Weeks, RDN, LD
Caroline is a clinical Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in pediatrics. She has a passion for educating families on how to provide nourishing meals from the beginning of life. She is a postpartum and infant feeding expert with a focus on baby led weaning. For evidence-based nutrition tips, follow her on Instagram @theclinicdietitian. To purchase her comprehensive Baby Led Weaning Guide as well as other resources, visit www.theclinicdietitian.com.