A pediatric nutritionist is sharing the details of a particularly extreme case of starvation of an infant she saw while working at a children’s hospital in Miami to illustrate the dangers of medical misinformation.
Marina Chaparro, who now runs NutriChicos, a bilingual children and family nutrition practice, recounts the story of an infant who was admitted to the hospital for vomiting and weight loss. At first, Chaparro and the physicians she worked with thought the baby had type 1 diabetes after receiving a ketoacidosis diagnosis.
After running tests, the providers learned the child’s mother was feeding him an almond milk diet, which led to starvation. She believes the infant’s mom “was doing the best she could” and wasn’t aware that almond milk did not contain the nutrients the baby needed. She believes the mother relied on information she most likely read online.
Thankfully, the baby was okay and was discharged after being fed formula for a couple of days, but Chaparro told Insider the story has stuck with her.
Nut milk, cow’s milk, and other non-dairy substitutes do not contain the proper nutrients for children under one. Breast milk and formula are the best options for babies that age.
Another danger to infants is diluting formula, which experts say can lead to lethargy and seizures. East Texas emergency room physician Dr. Owais Durrani cautions that watered-down formula can lead to low sodium in babies, which can lead to low blood pressure and low oxygen levels.
“A formula is essentially regulated as closely as any prescribed medication when it comes to the ingredients in it to make sure a baby’s kidneys are developing, their liver, their electrolytes — everything else is in a very fine balance,” he said.
Instead, Durrani recommends that parents switch to another brand if facing a formula shortage. Another option would be to ask their pediatrician or local hospital if formula samples are available.