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  • Writer's pictureChardá Bell, IBCLC, CBE, CD

Surviving Hurricanes With Babies & Toddlers

Over the weekend I receive quite a few texts from clients, some are urgent and some can be responded to during the upcoming week. This one was urgent and that's why I offer texting service to all of my clients current and past. This weekend I received an rather emergent question from a parent who needed to know what to do about milk for her 13 month old baby (newly turning into a toddler) during the recent Hurricane Beryl that came through Houston, Texas. The category 1 storm that made landfall and knocked out power to over 2 million residents and caused 2 fatalities has put many parents in a perilous situation. I offered this client (as I do with any in an emergency disaster situation) free visits for the next 2 weeks. Keep reading to see the advice I gave to her and what I recommend for other parents and families who may find themselves in similar situations with older babies and toddlers:

Babies over 1 year of age no longer need formula, and can switch to whole milk. Some toddlers never drink milk; if that's the case with your child, please don't force it. If your child is under 12 months please look at my blog on feeding in disasters here:

Toddlers do not NEED milk to thrive, but they do need appropriate nutrient intake.

Milk itself isn’t the ultimate key to your child’s healthy growth and development. Plenty of children have grown up without drinking it. The mix of nutrients in whole milk provides that make it such an ideal beverage for children under 5. Your child needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong. Vitamin D, iron, and zinc are three important ones.

Milk Alternatives

Milk alternatives can include beverages made from plants, such as soy, oat, rice, coconut, cashew, and almond.

If you choose a milk alternative, here are things to remember:

  • Milk alternatives should not be given before 12 months.

  • Fortified soy beverages are the only milk alternative that help meet a child’s recommended dairy needs.

  • Choose one that is unflavored and unsweetened.

  • Choose one that is fortified with vitamin D and calcium. Check labels, since nutrient content can vary between brands.

Toddler milks are an option for parents who are struggling with access to refrigerated dairy products due to power outages. While toddler milk is a bit of a marketing gimmick to have parents continue paying for their product when they discontinue use of formula, I don't usually recommend this for every day use over cow's milk or alternative milk for a child between 12 - 36 months.

However, emergency situations are in my opinion the perfect justification for toddler milk. It's powdered and you just add water, the same as infant formula. It is formulated to contain the correct amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that a child 12+ months needs.

I usually tell families to use whatever you can get your hands on, but try to look for one that is organic and possibly free of ingredients like palm oil & GMO's. As you should not have to use it long, that is the hope, this shouldn't negatively impact your baby's growth and development with this temporary and short term switch. Babies are resilient and often bounce back, they won't remember this little "hiccup" in their feeding journey, when things are back to normal go back to whatever you were doing for milk before.

How Much, and How Often?

Cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages can be a part of a child’s balanced and diverse diet but not the only thing. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend children aged 12 through 23 months get 1⅔ to 2 cup equivalents of dairy a day, including cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages, and soy-based yogurt. If your child drinks too much cow’s milk, he or she may not be hungry for other foods with important nutrients. Continue to follow your child’s cues to decide when he or she is hungry or full.

Nutritional Needs

Calcium can be found in certain vegetables, and fat and protein are found in many places.

To ensure adequate calcium in your toddler’s diet, try offering salmon, dark leafy greens, or fortified cereals.

For extra fat, nuts and nut butters, plant-based oils, and avocados are great choices. And fish, meats, eggs, and tofu all offer plenty of protein for dairy-free kids.

Like us adults, kids also require a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Sources of good carbs include vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes

Proteins sources such as fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and tofu.

Fat sources like plant oils, seeds, nuts, and nut butters (and, to a lesser extent, cheese and yogurt) are all healthy options.

Sample daily menu for toddlers:

  • Breakfast: 1/2 cup oatmeal with 1/4 cup blueberries and 1 tsp. brown sugar, plus 1 cup milk

  • Snack: 1 hard-boiled egg

  • Lunch: 1/2 turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with veggies (avocado, sprouts, tomato, or cucumbers), 1/2 banana, 1 cup milk

  • Snack: 1–2 graham crackers with 2 tbsp. applesauce

  • Dinner: 2-oz. shredded or appropriate for age cut-up meat, 1/4 cup starch (such as mashed potatoes or rice), 2–4 tbsp. vegetables (such as peas, asparagus, or spinach), 1 cup milk

For those who are still breastfeeding during disaster, use a manual handpump or try hand expression if you cannot use your wall pump to plug in. Continue to feed baby at breast as often as possible. If you are struggling with supply due to disaster and stress, please see below...

For Babies under 12 months who need formula in a disaster:

  • European formulas are reliable

  • no cow's milk for 12+ months older cows milk

  • Plant based milks do not have same level of fat or protein

  • Toddler formula is not a necessary; babies can’t use it

  • Premature milk ok for babies full term few weeks old

  • Do not make formula of any kind; could potentially cause fatality. There is No safe way to do this! TikTok lied to you. Calcium, iron and zinc are important and you can’t add those to homemade. Essential to baby’s development. Can make them sick because it’s not sterile enough to eliminate harmful bacteria.

  • Do not dilute as you can throw off the electrolytes your baby needs for it’s body to work properly balanced

  • OK to switch brands unless baby has special medical needs.

To Sum It All Up:

Toddler milks are a good choice for disaster situations with little access to cold dairy products due power outages. Alternative milks are good for dairy free families. Getting the recommended 2 to 3 cups of milk per day provides important nutrients that promote your little one’s healthy growth. Whatever way you can meet the nutritional components of what whole milk can provide is the goal. Stay safe!

  1. CDC food saftey guidelines:

  2. Government food safety guidelines:

  3. Live Hurricane Beryl Info on CNN:

  4. Vitamins & Minerals:

  5. If you choose to continue using infant formula and there is a shortage due to disaster visit these websites for more info: OR


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