For­mula-fed ba­bies bat­tle

Re­search looks at child health in nat­u­ral dis­as­ters

The Queensland Times - - NEWS - JACKIE SINNERTON

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

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