Infant Care

Direction for Mothers - Sally Lucas Jean Papers

These documents focus specifically on recommended infant care in the camps. They provide an interesting perspective on medical care, as well as nutrition, during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Furthermore, these documents offer a historically accurate source for comparing medical protocol in the camps with that of the rest of American society during the 1940s.

Issued by the War Relocation Authority’s Department of Public Heath, these documents detail the recommendations of health officials in the camps to new mothers on the matter of feeding their newly born infants. According to these suggestions, mothers should incorporate cod liver oil into their infants’ diet before they are even a month old for the prevention of rickets and add orange juice shortly after. Furthermore, mothers should breastfeed their infants every four hours for the first four months, gradually weaning their children until the age of eleven months. At around five months, mothers were advised to begin adding strained cooked cereals to their babies’ diets, adding strained cooked vegetables and egg yolks soon after. Mothers were told to feed their infants strained stewed fruits at around seven months, continuing to increase the variety and amount of their children’s diets as they grew older. By the end of the twelfth month, mothers were supposed to give their infants three meals a day and allow them to begin feeding themselves in a high chair.

Nurse's Aid student caring for infant at Poston Hospital

During the incarceration, life was certainly difficult for new mothers, for they had to attempt meet the nutritional requirements of their new infants in an atmosphere that was hardly conducive to such needs. While the camps lacked resources accessible to mothers outside the camps, several camps, such as Jerome in Colorado, housed a special refrigerator in the mess hall to fulfill some of the mothers’ immediate needs, specifically baby food and formulas (Okumura interview). Yukiko Miyahara, who stayed in the Santa Anita assembly center, appreciated the special baby stations from which mothers could obtain a small amount of baby food and milk when needed (Miyahara interview). However, most camps, including Manzanar, only distributed powdered milk, causing a relative lack of nutrition for infants allergic to this milk substitute, which angered Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, mother of an affected infant. Canned milk was typically reserved for the army and those who could afford to pay for it themselves, an impossibility for Japanese American mothers trying to survive on minimum salaries (Herzig interview). Some families in Poston sacrificed their ration of milk at a meal to provide for an infant in the family, since there were no special formulas for infants provided (Okimoto interview). On the other hand, many mothers, including Yukiko Miyahara, chose to nurse their babies for reasons of convenience and personal preference (Miyahara interview). However, despite the inevitable restrictions of life in the camps, the recommendations by health officials there were surprisingly similar to those of physicians in American society.

Mother with infant and child during evacuation

As these documents advocated the use of cod liver oil and orange juice, physicians outside the camps similarly recommended these substances as a means of obtaining Vitamins A, C, and D (Whipple 169-170). While the age recommendations for solids such as cereal, fruits, vegetables, and egg yolks are relatively similar to those in the camps, meat, as well as toast, was typically incorporated into infants’ diets around the age of seven months in American society, while mothers in the camps were not told to feed their young babies this delicacy within the first year. Perhaps this was due to a shortage or relative lack of such expensive food in the camps, or perhaps officials genuinely did not believe meat needed to be incorporated at such a young age (Whipple 173-178). The most reasonable explanation for this disparity is the rationing of meat, as well as canned milk, among civilians during World War II by the War Food Administration (Collingham 114-117,417-423, 431-432, 478). Regardless of the motives behind this exclusion, one cannot help but find it interesting that typical recommendations for infants’ diets both within the camps and in American society differed only in those areas involving foods considered more expensive and significantly less available during wartime.

Mother waiting in line with children

When examining the nutritional recommendations for infants during the decades surrounding World War II, one must also recognize the increasing popularity of baby foods at the time. Especially in the post-war era, many mothers and physicians believed their infants would benefit from solid food as early as possible. Thus, while breast milk and cow’s milk were considered sufficient sources of nutrients for infants in the 1920s, opinion dramatically shifted in the 1930s with the rising availability of canned baby foods such as those produced by the Gerber’s company. Evidently, in the years before World War II and the incarceration, the focus of mothers and physicians throughout America drastically shifted from breastfeeding to an accelerated incorporation of solids to meet infants’ nutritional requirements (Bentley).

In summary, these documents from the Sally Lucas Jean papers provide an intriguing account of life during World War II, particularly when analyzing infant care in the internment camps. Moreover, they serve as a useful resource when comparing the treatment of infants in the camps to that of babies living outside the camps in American society. Though one can conclude that standards of infant nutrition in the camps were relatively similar, though slightly modified due to the availability of supplies, to those outside the camps, many oral histories of mothers in the camps suggest that most of these needs were not actually met during the incarceration.


Laura Hanson


Works Cited

“A Guide to a Baby’s Feeding the First Year” Folder 74: Poston, Arizona, Japanese-Americans, 1942, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,217651


Bentley, Amy. Booming baby food: infant food and feeding in post-World War II America. Michigan Historical Review Fall 2006: 63. Online.


Collingham, Elizabeth. The taste of war: World War Two and the battle for food. London: Allen Lane. 2011. Print.


“Direction to Mothers” Folder 74: Poston, Arizona, Japanese-Americans, 1942, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,217608


Herzig, Aiko, interview by Emiko Omori and Chizu Omori, March 20, 1994, Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-02-0010]


Miyahara, Yukiko, interview by Kirk Peterson, April 10, 2009, Manzanar National Historic Site Collection, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-myukiko_2-01-0008]


Okimoto, Ruth Y., interview by Tom Ikeda, April 8, 2011, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-oruth-01-0010]


Okumura, Toyoko, interview by Tom Ikeda, February 15, 1997, Japanese American National Museum Collection, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-otoyoko-01-0012]


Whipple, Dorothy Vermilya. Our American babies: the art of baby care. New York: M. Barrows and company, inc., 1944. Online.;page=root;view=image;size=100;seq=1