Food Storage With Pregnant Women, Infants and Children

Sharon June 21st, 2011

Note: Rerun time – I’m spending this week getting ready for the final home visit.  After a disastrous visit by a social worker (not ours, thankfully) who was appalled by our farm and way of life, I’m not taking any chances.  So you get re-runs – but this is at least 3 years old and bears repeating, IMHO.  I’ve met so many people over the years who never expected to be pregnant (or pregnant again), caring for a grandchild or sibling’s child, etc…  Crises breed (so to speak) these sorts of situations – so please, even if you think you are past babies, or not going to conceive yourself, do think about it.)

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.


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

  1. Esmeralda says:

    How could anyone be appalled by a lifestyle that promotes health, connection to nature, sustainability, and general well being? Social workers are often very misdirected, it seems :P

    Currently reading your book. My head is about to fall of my shoulders for all the nodding I’m doing. You have no idea how desperately I’ve been looking for someone with a perspective like yours. Thank you so much. I’m only on page 50 and I’m already planning on buying/ recommending copies for all the women in my life.

  2. EngineerChic says:

    Hopefully the next visit goes more smoothly. I can imagine the social workers feel most comfortable with families/lifestyles that look familiar to other successful families/lifestyles. It isn’t that the farm is wrong, it’s just different, and that sets off alarm bells in their heads.

    They may also be sensitive to things that would make foster kids the target of bullies in school. So dressing differently, eating different stuff in packed lunches, having different activities would all be things that make them scratch their chins and say, “Hmmmm – will the other kids in grade X tease the foster kids mercilessly over this life?”

    Of course, plenty of kids who wear Levis and Nike, eat Lunchables, and spend afterschool time in their 0.25 acre manicured lawns get picked on as well. But if they want to keep the odds as low as possible they have to balance the risk of bullying against the value of a broader (better) life experience.

    I’m sure the next visit will go better, when they take a second look at it they’ll see that farm life is a good thing for building strong & resilient kids.

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