Formula-fed babies battle
Research looks at child health in natural disasters
NATURAL disasters hit formula-fed Queensland babies harder than those that are breastfed.
In an Australian first, a study has looked at the health of babies following natural disasters and found formula-fed infants face a much higher risk of sickness.
The research from the University of the Sunshine Coast was based on a survey of mothers impacted when almost three quarters of the state was hit by severe flooding and category five Cyclone Yasi.
Researcher and lead author Dr Ruth Newby said children who received formula during these disasters were almost 10 times more likely to visit medical practitioners in the four weeks after the emergency. Mothers struggled to pack up feeding equipment before leaving their homes and reported being unsure if the formula they used was safe.
Breastfeeding had a protective effect against several illnesses.
“Just over half of the mothers sought medical treatment for their children for a range of symptoms from fever and diarrhoea to irritable behaviour, coughs and colds,” Dr Newby said.
“Eight of the infants were admitted to hospital.”
She said the impact of natural disasters on infant and child health had been well-researched in developing countries but had not previously been studied in developed countries, such as Australia.
The data was extracted from the Feeding Queensland Babies Study by the Child Health Research Network that followed the infant feeding attitudes and habits of almost 500 first-time Queensland mothers from pregnancy until their child turned two.
“The timing of these natural disasters during this research period allow us to gain unique insights into the difficulties families face in providing safe nutrition to their young children during natural disasters in first-world countries,” Dr Newby said.
“In Australia we tend to assume we can always feed our babies and that clean water is a given — until suddenly it is not. Emergencies can remove the infrastructure that usually makes formula feeding relatively safe, potentially exposing formula fed infants to greater than usual risks,” she said.
‘‘ THE TIMING OF THESE NATURAL DISASTERS DURING THIS RESEARCH PERIOD ALLOW US TO GAIN UNIQUE INSIGHTS INTO THE DIFFICULTIES FAMILIES FACE. DR RUTH NEWBY