Thoughts| “Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Article:“Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Money is tight and you’re low on baby formula. Should you try that homemade formula recipe you saw online?
The answer is: No.

The advice is solid here, no questioning that. Homemade formula isn’t a great idea.
However, this article overestimates the help available for parents who may feel it’s necessary to water down formula or go to a homemade variety. If parents are going down that route, it’s most likely because the solutions in place haven’t worked out fully.

When I first read the article, I assumed the homemade baby formula in question was my Grandma’s recipe she handed to me when I became a first time mom almost thirty years ago. It has 3 ingredients: evaporated milk,water,karo syrup.

I looked at the most popular homemade recipes for formula out there and quickly learned that these are not my Grandma’s basic recipes and if those are the ones the author is referring to, I don’t think she has to worry about a parent without money making any of them. The ingredients are expensive (there are also “kits” that run about $180-$200…definitely not within low income budgets). I’m inclined to think those who are making these “natural” formulas are doing so not for penny pinching reasons. They’re probably just anti-formula but aren’t breastfeeding or want to supplement.

That out of the way, let’s focus on suggestions given to parents with the assumption they’re making formula to save money (or because they have no money).

The article suggests that if you can’t afford formula, apply for WIC, SNAP, and TANF.
WIC usually does provide enough formula for babies but some families may find times in their baby’s development where they’re going through more formula than WIC provides. Some states have also made cuts to WIC and may not be providing the same as they were.

While WIC income eligibility guidelines are usually higher than SNAP, recipients are still low income and are likely dealing with the multitude of issues that plague low income folks. Missing a WIC appointment can be disastrous. When we’re talking about a low income parent missing an appointment the reason isn’t easily explained away as “irresponsibility”. Can’t get off work, car broke down,can’t find a ride, no public transportation… not excuses, valid obstacles. In rural areas, rescheduling an appointment may not be a possibility at all. Your WIC clinic is one certain day per month in the basement of a church and if you miss that day, there’s nothing else you can do but wait until next month. Even a weather cancellation could totally screw up a family getting their WIC checks on time.

SNAP? Of course it helps but the average allotment of $3 per day per person isn’t going to get everyone in the family the food they need PLUS formula for a whole month. And TANF is notoriously hard to get approved for. Benefits are low and only temporary. You may even be asked to pay back the amount.

The article also recommends food pantries and yes, of course some will be able to help but small town and rural pantries won’t be able to fill that need always.




Where To Get Formula If WIC & SNAP Doesn’t Meet Your Baby’s Needs

Call Your Pediatrician

Your pediatrician has sample cans on hand that they can give to families in need and should supply you with what your baby needs to make it through to your next payday, WIC check pickup, or SNAP disbursement. They may also be able to refer you to additional community organizations who are specialized in helping low income families with things like formula and diapers.
You may also want to give your local health department a call. They are likely to know of other avenues available.

NOTE: I’m aware that some folks may feel afraid to ask their pediatrician for fear of having child protective services called. Yes, use your best judgement about this and only if you feel safe with your provider.

Check Out Your Local Gift Economy Scene

This one may be tricky. You have to find it first, if it even exists. The idea of a gift economy is simply that if you need something, you ask and if you have something to give, you offer it up. No cash exchanged.
Your gift economy may exist on something like Freecycle or even in the community section of craigslist but more often, you’ll see some thriving local groups on Facebook. They may not be labeled “gift economy”. They may be something like “Moms Helping Moms” or something just as simple as “Free Exchange”.
Local parenting groups with an online group are an important resource and I encourage people to join them, even though they certainly can be a minefield of drama at times if they’re not well moderated.



Pregnancy Centers,Community Centers,Churches

You can use 211.org to find a lot of these resources but from my own experience, the list they have may not be complete or it’s outdated. I find that Catholic Charities is usually very helpful (experience may vary on location) and the pregnancy centers that have no religious affiliation are usually the most comfortable to seek help at.
Even if a church doesn’t have a food pantry serving the community, they may still be able to help.

Also recognizing here that asking churches may not be for everyone.

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Cloth Diapering & Low Income Families

Awhile back, I read about the results of a Yale study that examined low income women and how poverty affected their mental health. One of the neat tidbits that came out was that about 30% of these mothers stated that they could not afford diapers for their babies and admitted reusing diapers.

We didn’t need a study to tell us this, or that low income mother are stressed out and prone to depression. Like, duh.

When the study came out, cloth diapering advocates and parents posted the article time and time again on social media with head shaking and finger wagging. “If only they used cloth diapers.”

I’m a huge fan of cloth diapering. I’ve wrapped all of my babies butts in cloth ,and although I really,really like The Earth, my main motivator was the cost effectiveness of cloth diapering and not the environmental benefits. I have been incredibly fortunate when it comes to acquiring cloth diapers. I got many for gifts. Several times I was able to claim a nice stash on Freecycle, brand new. The parents had decided not to cloth diaper after all and decided to pass them on to someone who could use them. Also, I can sew and make my own.

I love cloth diapers and think they’re awesomesauce. I encourage everyone to use them….when and if they can.

I was amazed at some of the really stupid commentary from the cloth diapering community when that study came out. Some people did not understand why low income women wouldn’t just do the “smart thing” and use cloth diapers. Of course, when people don’t understand the reasons why someone does or doesn’t do something, then you get the inevitable judgement and even outright shaming that “those people” don’t know better or do better.

Ugh,right?

I have known quite a few families who would like to cloth diaper but they don’t have access to a place they can buy cloth diapers. Not everyone has a bricks & mortar store near them that sells cloth diapers. Not everyone has a credit or debit card to purchase them online,either. Accessibility can be an issue for some people,depending where they live & their situation. Then the initial start-up cost of diapers. Wowza. We’re talking about $50 for 12 diapers + covers .

Even if you point out that many people do not have washing machines in their home (or maybe they live in a region that has severe water restrictions) or maybe they can barely afford to do laundry at the laundromat and that JUST one extra load makes it even harder, know what the reply was from some?

“That’s no excuse. There’s always handwashing”
(Actual comment. Sadly, echoed by others)

I’ve done that before and I have no reservations about saying it outright: Handwashing sucks. At the time, I worked at home. If I had worked outside the home, there’s no way I would have added that stress to my day. Poor women are stressed and depressed already. Handwashing shitty diapers isn’t going to improve anything. I wasn’t even stressed (or poor) at the time but it didn’t do wonders for my psyche.

To people who have a profound disconnect with poverty, when some poor person doesn’t do something they can do, it’s an excuse or a poor choice they’re making.  If a parent who is not poor makes the same parenting decision, it’s just a choice they made , not a poor one.

Feels like this is just another post from me, asking others to try to wrap their brain around an aspect of someone else’s life they never considered before and find some compassion, so I’ll wrap this up with some ideas on how to help and links.

How To Help Low Income Families Cloth Diaper

  • My old washing machine sat in my driveway for awhile before I could have it hauled away. A couple knocked on the door one day asking if they could have it. I told them the drum was cracked and leaked. They still wanted it. This couple collects broken appliances and fixes them specifically to donate to low income families. If you’re handy and have some spare time (and a truck would be helpful), this would be a nice project that could help people in your community.
  • If you have sewing skills, consider sewing up some cloth diapers to give to a family OR even better, teach others to make them and make it a group project. Youth groups could easily get involved.
  • Pick up used sewing machines and sewing supplies to donate to families who are interested in making their own.
  • If there’s a cloth diaper bank program in your area, maybe work together to fundraise laundry expenses for families without a washer at home.

These are places you can donate diapers, both cloth and disposable, for low income families.

 

The National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit that has donated more than 15 million diapers to free distributers across the nation, helps connect struggling families with local diaper banks.

Baby Buggy reports that it has helped provide 6 million items, including diapers and bottles, to struggling families.

 

 

Teach Me How To Breast Feed [VIDEO]

Urban Matriarch made this awesome video, inspired by women she has helped breastfeed and her own breastfeeding experience.

I want to just say a few things about breastfeeding and formula to make it totally clear what my intentions are here, now and in future blog posts.

I am a “lactivist”. I support and encourage breastfeeding. I’ve breastfed 6 children. I’m still nursing a toddler. I love breastfeeding. In terms of how it applies to folks struggling with food security, it is totally applicable. Breastfeeding is a free and secure resource that ensures a baby gets the nourishment he or she needs, no matter how much money is in Mama’s bank account or SNAP budget… or if there’s a misstep in the stat’s management of WIC funds and their program is shut down.

But I’ve also had to use formula. Maybe “had to” isn’t the right wording. I had no support while breastfeeding preemie twins and it was a stressful, frustrating process I could not work through alone. Maybe if I had the support, I could have done it but that’s not the way it worked out. So, in the neat labeling system that happens within the Mamahood, I have been a Formula Feeding Mom. So, I know the crap people can give you for not breastfeeding.

I’m not into the judging thing here. I’m into being an advocate. If you feed your baby formula, don’t take anything pro-breastfeeding here as a personal criticism of your choice. I am sure there will be opportunities here to talk about formula feeding,too. When it comes to being an advocate for mothers and children living below the poverty line, it’s important to me to advocate for ALL mothers, no matter how they chose to feed their baby. I think that’s what being an advocate for women & mothers  (feminism,humanism,etc) should look like,anyway.

Teach Me How To Breast Feed [MUSIC VIDEO] – YouTube.