As many as 25 percent of normally developing infants and young children experience feeding issues, according to a widely-cited 1998 study in Paediatrics & Child Health. Some of these infant feeding issues may be present at or shortly after birth. For one Belgian couple, they decided to take matters into their own hands when they felt their baby might have severe feeding issues of his own — which resulted in their worst nightmare. On Wednesday, these Belgian parents were convicted after their baby died from "alternative milk," a diet of which they conceived and administered themselves, without any medical advice or supervision from their child's health care provider, according to CBS News.
According to local media Het Nieuwsblad, the parents, identified only as 30-yearold Sandrina V. and 34-year-old Peter S., took their 7-month-old son Lucas to a homeopathic doctor before he was taken to a hospital, where he died of severe malnutrition on June 6, 2014. At the time of his death, baby Lucas weighed less than 10 pounds, less than half the weight expected for an infant of his age. Perhaps most shocking of all is that baby Lucas may not have had feeding issues at all: His parents self-diagnosed their son was gluten-intolerant and had a lactose allergy, without consultation from any medical providers. The parents were convicted in Belgian court and given a six-month suspended sentence.
In court, the parents testified that they didn't think anything was wrong with their baby and his weight. His mother testified that sometimes baby Lucas' weight would go up and down, but they never saw a problem with this and, as a result, never took their baby to a doctor. According to the parents, Lucas' mother did not produce breastmilk and he refused regular infant formula, so the boy's parents instead fed him "alternative" milks. The parents' lawyer, Karine Van Meirvenne, told Het Nieuwsblad that the parents believed their son had an "eating disorder," and fed him products they carried at the natural food store they owned in Beveren, Belgium.
Van Meirvenne told Het Nieuwsblad the baby's diet consisted of "oat milk, rice milk, buckwheat milk, semolina milk, quinoa milk. All products which they also sell in their store." When Lucas died, his organs had shrunk to half their size and he was severely dehydrated. While there are certainly a number of medically valid reasons to eschew breastmilk or formula, the alternative milk diet Lucas was fed did not provide nearly enough nutrients for the baby to survive. Worse still, the parents did this all without any input from a licensed medical professional.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics pediatric milk substitute guidelines, all milk other than mother’s breast milk is not recommended for infants under 1 year old, noting that people absorb nutrients better from animal-sourced milks than plant-based milks. Additionally, the AAP recommends that solid foods should not be introduced until an infant is at least 4 months old. The case of baby Lucas is a tragic case no matter how you look at it, highlighting the importance of following sound medical guidelines and recommendations for newborns and infants.