Shortage of Infant Milk in Lebanon... Alternatives and Solutions

23 April 2021


As the financial crisis in Lebanon is intensified and the unprecedented collapse of the value of the Lebanese currency with the lack of foreign currencies, the Lebanese market is witnessing scarcity in Infant milk which are  imported from abroad and its price should be paid in US Dollars. Reports mentioned that pharmacies witness interruption of milk No. 3 supplies, which infants between ages of one to three years drink. The food security of infants at this age group is threatened forcing parents to constantly search for milk hoping they can get a box of milk to feed their infants. In light of this painful reality and with a sense of social responsibility, it was necessary to think about practical solutions and find alternatives to Infant milk in a way that preserves people's dignity and guarantees their natural right to obtain food without begging at the doors of pharmacies and supermarkets, which in turn have no fault in the crisis. The propaganda that media spreads about companies producing various types of powdered milk has assured us for many years that it is "essential for the full development of infants", that it is "fortified with iron", "contains essential vitamins and minerals" and "maintains the child's mental health." This propaganda formed a false public opinion that was instilled by most of parents not to dispense these dried products even as their children grow old. Here, we do not claim that these products are harmful or threatens the safety and health of children, but rather a commodity that can be replaced by a natural product abundantly available at reasonable prices for all society levels.
For centuries, humanity has relied on natural or fresh milk to raise infants and as a healthy food for adults as well. In the past few decades, many rumors spread that natural milk may cause fever or allergy, or lead to a deficiency in some important elements that are necessary for growth, such as iron or a decrease in the level of some vitamins and so on. At the same time, some countries established big companies for producing and exporting these products. While the truth that people should know is that these products are nothing but food commodities produced and exported for business purposes even that many countries that produce and export milk powder depend on fresh or natural milk as food for children and they do not adhere to any specific type or brand.
Health researchers agree that infants from age one year and over can drink fresh milk with all its components. At this age, natural milk for a child has great nutritional value as it contains high-quality proteins, calcium, fats and micronutrients that are necessary for growth. According to the National Library of Medicine in the United States, the fat in natural milk is necessary for the growth of the child's brain. It also recommends giving children milk with all its components starting the age of one or two years. Moreover, the components of natural milk have growth-promoting effects independently of specific compounds.

As for the argument that says that natural milk may cause some undesirable symptoms for infants such as allergies, diarrhea or weight gain, this may happen sometimes besides it also happens with powdered milk formulas. Scientific studies indicate that allergy to cow's milk proteins is usually transient, and that the link between cow's milk with autism spectrum disorders is not scientifically proven, in addition to that its relationship to type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) has not been proven.
Here, we must present some advice to replace powdered milk for the infant in a safe and healthy way. First, you must gradually give natural milk to the child so that he gets used to its taste and digestion especially if he is accustomed to the dried formula. Second, if the milk will be prepared at home, it must boil for 20 minutes to ensure it is sterilized and safe. It is also possible to reduce the percentage of fat (especially for beginners) by skimming the fat layer that appears on the surface of the milk after boiling. Among the important advice is that should be accompanied by a varied and balanced diet to replace the vitamins and minerals by meat, chicken and vegetables that are allowed to be given to the infant at this age. We should not forget milk products and its derivatives (such as yogurt, salted yogurt, and cheese) as an alternative in case the infant did not accept natural milk. We also recommend that parents expose the infant to the sun on a daily basis (even for a short period of time) to ensure proper growth and an adequate level of vitamin D. If any of these are not possible, then there is nothing wrong if the infant is given medicinal supplements of vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin D and iron) to compensate for any possible deficiency and ensure healthy growth. Health advice - by the pediatrician or pharmacist - remains essential to safely and properly monitor the growth and health of your children.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that breastfeeding is the absolute priority for children’s health, especially for those under the age of one, because of the health benefits the infant receives, and economic benefits for parents and society. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is the ideal food for an infant. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses. It also provides all the energy and nutrients that an infant needs in his first months. Studies also confirm that breastfed babies do better in IQ tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and less likely to develop diabetes and chest and intestinal infections later in life. If that was impossible, there are many aids that assist the mother to stimulate breastfeeding or use of modified breast milk for children of this age, either through ready-made products or prepare it at home.
Article Written by: Dr. Mohammad Ali Hijazi (Faculty of Pharmacy at Beirut Arab University)
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