Breastfeeding Medicine Blog

Breastfeeding Mitigates a Disaster

Holocaust Memorial day, or as it is called in Israel and worldwide  as “Yom Hashoah”,  is combination of the most depressing sadness as we  of memorialize the 6,000,000 murdered victims  of Nazi Germany and their European collaborators, and  paradoxically, a celebration  of those individuals who somehow survived the horrors of mass murder and ethnic cleansing. The realization that 1.5 million infants and children were singled out  for elimination by the Nazi so as to prevent the chances  of a historical continuity of the European Jewish community is somehow counterbalanced by the miraculous stories of infants surviving, especially in the most unlikely circumstances and conditions.

This  past Yom Hashoah I had the opportunity to  view a documentary entitled “Geboren in KZ” (“Born in a Concentration Camp”, a film  by Eva Gruberova and Martina Gawaz for GDR Television )  which recounts the unbelievable story of 7 infants who were born in 1945 in  the Dachau, Germany  concentration camp. The fact that the mothers of these infants were able to conceal their pregnancies and reach term without being detected in of itself  defies comprehension, for as we know the policy of the Nazis was to send any women diagnosed as pregnant directly to the crematorium. Some of the women  even escaped  detection and “selection” for death  by the infamous Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz before being transferred to Dachau  No less  miraculous so was their ability to maintain a  minimal degree of nutrition to sustain their pregnancy till term or near term.

Months later when  Dachau was liberated by the US Army, the GI’s  to their astonishment discovered among the 30,000 survivors of the camp  seven mothers and their seven infants  ranging in age 1-6 months  (3 boys and 4 girls).  To their wonderment they found that the infants were relatively thriving with little if any discernible medical problems. The film documents visually the US Army’s surprise and the images of the healthy infants. Almost in passing when asked how the babies survived the unbearable conditions in the concentration camp the answer they received was simply that the infants were breastfed with two of the mothers acting as wet nurses to supplement those mothers who milk supply was marginal. Not only did all the infants survive, after liberation they grew normally, ultimately married and raised their own families, truly a testimony to their fortune of defying their presumed proscribed fate and  the Nazis nefarious plan for a final solution  of the Jewish problem.

Natural disasters are inevitable and part of the realities and vagaries of living on earth. Our role as caretakers is to prepare for them and not compound their consequences by disrupting the natural order of infant feeding e.g. breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Hopefully, we will not need  another round of evidence from man-made disasters such as the Holocaust of World war II to convince us that  survival even in the most  deprived  circumstances is dependent in maintaining  that maternal-infant dyadic breastfeeding nurturing relationship. Those infants who were born into the horrors of the Nazi camps and survived proved it and that should be enough to convince the doubters. The lessons of the Holocaust are many and we are charge to remember those who went through that hell and their message of hope for future generations.


Dr. Arthur I Eidelman, FABM, FAAP,  is a Professor of Pediatrics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, past president of ABM, and a Fellow of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.



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The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Issues Guidance on Informal Milk Sharing for Healthy Term Infants

New Rochelle, NY, January 8, 2018—In response to the increasing informal sharing of human milk, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has published guidelines to minimize the risk of this practice while enhancing the health benefits. The position statement is published in Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Breastfeeding Medicine website until February 8, 2018.

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s 2017 Position Statement on Informal Breast Milk Sharing for the Term Healthy Infant ” discusses strategies to maximize the safety of community-based breast milk sharing, including 1) medical screening of the donor and 2) safe milk handling practices. Donors should have no medical illness where breastfeeding is contraindicated nor on any medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding. Mothers can further reduce the risk of infections by performing home pasteurization of donated milk prior to giving it to her infant; however, pasteurization can decrease some of the beneficial components of human milk. ABM also emphasizes that while informal milk sharing has potential health benefit, “internet-based milk sharing is not recommended under any circumstances.”

“Informal breast milk sharing is becoming increasingly common for healthy term infants as 21st century families desire to feed their infants human milk,” says Dr. Timothy Tobolic, president of ABM. “Physicians and other health care providers can help mothers and families evaluate the risks and benefits of informal milk sharing.”