Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
SharePoint

PHE Home > ASPR Blog > Posts > Infant Feeding during Disasters

 

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Content Editor ‭[3]‬

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Content Editor ‭[2]‬

Feb 27
Infant Feeding during Disasters

​If you’re an emergency planner, then you know that community resources can be in high demand during emergencies. Emergency planners need to take this demand into account to protect and save as many lives as possible. Here’s an element you may not have considered: breastfeeding is an invaluable asset in emergency planning.

In the US, most mothers breastfeed at some point, and this is great news for emergency planners. During an emergency, supporting mothers’ ability to keep breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to protect mothers’ and infants’ health and safety. Breastfeeding reliably protects infants from exposure to contaminated water and other unsanitary conditions, both of which are leading causes of infant death in emergencies.

In addition, breastfeeding regulates the infant’s body temperature and protects them against infections and illnesses that occur during periods of close proximity, eliminates reliance on formula and feeding bottle supplies, reduces maternal stress, and improves maternal coping ability. Stopping breastfeeding requires exposing infants to potentially contaminated water and feeding supplies and to feeds that may not be tolerated by the infant, and introduces risk of severe breast infection in the mother requiring antibiotic therapy.

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding outlines 20 actions to improve breastfeeding support in the United States; many of these recommendations serve as excellent guides to help emergency planners address the barriers and limitations that could lead women to stop breastfeeding in emergencies. By taking these steps to help make sure mothers can continue breastfeeding during and after a disaster, emergency planners can save more mothers and babies’ lives and conserve finite community resources.

However, most babies are not breastfed exclusively by three months of age, and those who are not require careful planning, too. Parents need to be able to prepare formula and clean bottles without contaminated water and to be sure they have reliable access enough formula to meet their baby’s nutritional needs.

Has your community taken safe infant feeding into account when planning for an emergency?

Some strategies are:

  • Always consider the breastfeeding mother and child as a single, inseparable unit. Ensure the breastfeeding mother and her breastfeeding child are always together, even if separation from other family members becomes necessary. Space planning should always ensure that all mothers (regardless of how they feed their babies) are able to remain in close proximity to their infants at all times, especially while sleeping.
  • Ensure that community health care providers are trained and educated on infant feeding in disasters, and that networks of emergency responder clinicians include breastfeeding experts such as lactation consultants. In almost all situations it is best to keep breastfeeding. Clinical scenarios that warrant introducing the hazards associated with weaning are extraordinarily rare. Health care providers’ advice to wean unnecessarily risks infants’ and mothers’ health. Ensure health care providers of infants who are fed formula monitor the infant closely and teach parents to use single serving containers of ready-to-feed formula whenever possible and to know the signs of infection from contaminated water.
  • Put breastfeeding mothers together in community shelters if at all possible. Try to identify locations as particularly ‘family friendly’ so mothers of young children (regardless of how they feed their babies) can support and comfort each other, and feel safer about child supervision within the shelter.
  • Provide a private, quiet, clean seated area for mothers and babies to breastfeed, preferably large enough for more than one mother at a time.
  • Provide a private, quiet, clean seated area with electricity, reliable refrigeration, extra baby bottles and extra labels to reliably and safely store milk or formula, and a sink for washing hands and breast pump parts so that they have a safe location to express and store their own milk if needed.

Check out these resources on infant feeding during disasters:

Emergency management planners can lead their communities by increasing support and awareness of breastfeeding during emergencies by implementing the action steps above. We urge you to think of other ways that you can support breastfeeding mothers in emergencies and share your ideas in a comment to this blog post.

ASPR would like to extend a special thanks to all of the experts who contributed to the development of this blog post, including those from HHS Office of Children and Families; HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Comments

There are no comments for this post.

Comments

There are no comments for this post.

 PHE Social Media ‭[1]‬

 PHE Social Media ‭[2]‬

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Blog Tools ‭[2]‬

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Blog Tools ‭[1]‬

Cyber Security
Exercises & Trainings
Hospital Preparedness
Innovations
Medical Countermeasures
National Disaster Medical System
National Health Security
Observances
Public Health Preparedness
Response & Recovery
Cyber Security
Exercises & Trainings
Hospital Preparedness
Innovations
Medical Countermeasures
National Disaster Medical System
National Health Security
Observances
Public Health Preparedness
Response & Recovery