Food Storage With Pregnant Women, Infants and Young Children

Sharon March 25th, 2008

This week I’m going to spend a lot of time on specific needs, and how to adapt your food storage to meet those needs.  Among the most common special circumstances is a childbearing woman, infant or young children.  Even if you personally are male or past childbearing, you may end up being the place of respite for family who have these issues in a crisis, and it is, IMHO, important to think about them.  I have encountered many people over the years who never expected to see their children suddenly arrive back home, to end up raising their nephews or grandchildren, or never expected to get pregnant (or pregnant again) and did.  Do not think that this information could never be relevant to most of us.  Remember, plans are good – but plans go awry regularly.

The first, and probably most essential component here is water.  I know a lot of people respond to my discussions of storing water as “ok, we’ve moved into total whack-job territory.”  And yet, I’m going to say that this is particularly important if your household includes or might include pregnant women, infants or very young children who are especially vulnerable to disease, parasites and chemical contaminations.  They also all have very little toleration for dehydration or water stress.

 So if you have or might have young children, pregnant women or infants, store water, and have a way of filtering water in the long term.  If you have a limited supply of filtered or known safe water, and are worried about contamination, the last people to touch potentially contaminated water should be children or pregnant women – lifelong consequences are possible. 

Pregnant women need more water and more of some nutrients.  Storing a pregnancy multivitamin if you could potentially become pregnant is not a bad idea.  Regular multivitamins will mostly suffice, though, if a varied diet is possible.  Folate (found in eggs and greens) and protein are particularly important - make sure pregnant women get more of these foods.

One issue for pregnant women may be nausea – on a food storage diet it is particularly difficult to deal with food issues.  To the extent you can, women in early pregnancy suffering from nausea should be accomodated in any way possible - the reality is that hunger makes the nausea worse and can result in a “death spiral” of being unable to eat or keep anything down long enough to deal with hunger induced increases in nausea.  This can cause dehydration, occasionally even death.  So if you are relying on food storage and have a sick pregnant woman, do the best you can to find something she can eat, if you know you plan to be pregnant and have specific triggers you might consider storing them, also if you plan to be pregnant, sea bands or ginger might work (nothing worked for me ;-) but I mention it). 

Otherwise, pregnancy doesn’t require special foods.  But infants do.  Infants under 4 months (6 months is considered ideal) should be exclusively breast-fed whenever possible.  Breastfeeding is essential – and in a crisis, it can actually save lives.  Formula often becomes unavailable in a crisis, and a nursing mother can not only keep her own infant hydrated (even if she is suffering from dehydration she will continue to make some milk) but potentially other infants as well who can drink expressed milk in a bottle or cup or be taught to nurse (sometimes).  While not every woman can nurse, far more can than do, and for longer than most American women do. There’s more on the value of this here:

But what about women who can’t nurse, or those who adopt? And, for that matter, I’m going to say something that most mothers don’t like to hear.  We aren’t immortal or invulnerable – trust me, I know how it feels to believe that you have to be ok, because your children depend so much on you.  But things happen sometimes to mothers.  And the survival of our babies and children shouldn’t depend on the ability of any one adult to be present and to feed them.  So having some kind of backup situation makes sense. 

That backup situation could be another lactating woman in close proximity, it could be a goat (not a cow), or it could be a store of infant formula.  I know that we should whenever possible, store what we use and vote with our dollars.  But every time I had a baby, before I gave birth, my husband and I bought a six month supply of generic, cheap infant formula.  It lasts about 2 years in storage (and unopened can be safely used for another year or two, but will lose nutritional value and may not adequate, so do this only in a dire emergency to keep a baby alive – a wet nurse or goat would be better) and before it expired, we would give it to our local food pantry that always desperately needed formula. 

I am a passionate advocate of breastfeeding – but I care much more that babies live even if their Moms aren’t around, or can’t nurse them, and someone be able to take care of the babies around them. Only you know if your circumstance merits doing this, but it is something to think seriously about – I think of it as a charitable donation, one I hope never to need myself.

Once an infant is 4 months old (again, six is considered optimal, but by 5 months my kids were always grabbing food out of my mouth at the table, so thought they were ready), you can gradually begin transitioning them to mashed up solids.  (Actually, when I was an infant, solids were begun as early as 6 weeks – this is not recommended now, but if formula or breastmilk were in short supply, it could be considered – again, do it only if you have to.)  Waiting longer is considered better, particularly if you have a family history of food allergies.

Babies don’t need “baby food” per se, although it is good to start them on mashed up very simple, low allergen foods like white rice, greens, potatoes or orange vegetables.   But again, they should be primarily getting their food from mother’s milk, goat’s milk or formula until nearly a year – babies need a high fat, high protein, high quality diet.  If you think they may come into your orbit, store for them.

Young children, under 2, need more fat than most people, so storing some extra high fat food is a good idea.  Fish oil is a particularly useful thing if you can keep it cool, because it enhances brain development. Otherwise, they simply need a balanced, healthy diet.  But this can be tough with young children, since toddlers often are extremely picky eaters.  This means that storing familiar foods and getting kids familiar with whole foods used in storage is especially important. 

Toddler pickiness has some evolutionary advantages – as they get more mobile, they get more choosy about what they eat, which is protective.  It is helpful to recognize that this is a passing stage, and just concentrate on finding foods they like.  Remember also that toddlers often have to encounter an unfamiliar food over and over again before they will try it – keep trying.   Generally speaking, if they aren’t making a radical dietary transition – that is a complete break from familiar foods – which they shouldn’t be, since we’re all trying to eat what we store – kids won’t generally do themselves any harm.

For healthy older children, I think a low-tolerance policy towards picky eating is important – I’ve written more about getting over picky eating here.  And again, kids make it extra-urgent that you begin eating out of your food storage regularly.

I’ll post some kid friendly food storage recipes in one of my next posts – more coming soon!


6 Responses to “Food Storage With Pregnant Women, Infants and Young Children”

  1. Idaho Locavoreon 25 Mar 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Peppermint did wonders for me with my nausea. We also use it for garden variety tummy aches and stuffiness. Mint is super easy to grow, super easy to dehydrate and keep. Place clean but dry cut mint branches into a large paper grocery sack, staple the top mostly shut and put in a very warm dry place (I keep mine in the summer sunroom) for a few days until the leaves are crispy dry. Strip leaves from the dried twigs and pack into a large glass jar. Keep in a cool, dark cupboard. This keeps the volatile oils in the mint better than any other method I’ve used.

  2. Liseon 25 Mar 2008 at 4:05 pm


    I just went back and read your post on picky eating–wow!! It’s a great one. The kids in my early childhood program get all kinds of “weird” foods from me, with a very similar attitude. You give me the courage to be even more hardline! (and, p.s., they were begging me for more cabbage and ketchup today!)

    :-) Lise

  3. Kathyon 26 Mar 2008 at 3:06 am

    Hi Sharon,

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, although I have been an interested reader for some time now. This post is great; the only very small caveat I’d interject, as a person with a genetic food allergy auto-immune disorder (Coeliac disease) is that if you or your partner does have Coeliac, it is actually important to introduce gluten-containing foods earlier rather than later – the medicos recommend at 4 months, and certainly no later than 6 months. It sounds so counter-intuitive but apparently the earlier introduction of gluten can delay or avoid the development of Coeliac disease. There’s a recent study on it:

    And believe me – Coeliac is enough of a bugger to manage in an option-rich Western nation now – it will be even less fun in times of shortage. If it’s possible to avoid its onset in children at risk (with a parent diagnosed), that is a good goal to have.

    So, unlike for other food allergies – Coeliac parents should introduce gluten containing solids to babies post 4 months but well before 6 months.

  4. Sharonon 26 Mar 2008 at 7:40 am

    Kathy – Thank you for the information – I had no idea! I really appreciate it.

    Lise – Yay for cabbage and ketchup (although don’t make me eat it ;-) !

    IL – Thanks for the tip on drying mint – I’ll definitely try it. And it is definitely worth having any pregnant women try everything – morning sickness sucks.


  5. Malinon 27 Mar 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I hardly felt any nausea thanks a lot of snacking and my mama tea and maybe my genes, who knows. I can recommend the pregnancy tea during the whole pregnancy: raspberry leaves and nettles mostly, with spearmint for taste and little less of other good herbs as chamomille, rosehips, oatstraw. There are also good herbs for nursing, as blessed thislte, anise and fennel. Cramp Bark relieves the pain of uterine contractions after birth and during menstrual flow. Blue Cohosh helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy state. Hops are a sleep inducing, milk-producing painkiller.

    Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed is a great herb book! Many herbs are growing around us so if we learn about and gather them ourselves at the right time, we are not dependent on buying herbs – though try to learn from someone who can show you how the plants look like etc.

  6. shiphrahon 07 Jun 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Enjoyed reading your blog but I can’t agree about buying infant formula ‘just in case’ I just wouldn’t do it. If something were to happen to me and I was no longer around to be breastfeeding my children I would prefer my husband let another woman friend relative or someone close by breastfeed the babe until he/she was ready to be weaned. I am also interested to know your thoughts on birth. I also would recommend wise woman herbal for the childbearing year. I also think all women should have some basic knowledge on childbirth/midwifery as eventually those pregnant women will give birth wont they ? I mean if your going to buy infant formula just in case it seems even more important to know how to catch a baby if your ever in that situation. Anne Fry has some great books on holistic midwifery a bit expensive but worth every cent in my opinion. Some also suggest introducing meat as a first food (high in iron ) rather than cereals high in carbohydrates as breastmilk is already high in carbs. My babies were rarely given mashed up foods we went straight onto finger foods when they were old enough to sit up and hold food. I really cant see our ancestors going to so much trouble to make buckets of mashed up food. I also thought that potatoes were a member of the deadly nightshade family and not recommended as a first food for that reason. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are much easier to grow around here than potatoes anyway.

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