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Breastfeeding as Emergency Preparedness

Breastfeeding Emergency Preparedness

Helen Anderson, RN, CLE
Are You Prepared to Breast Feed During an Emergency?During the cold winter months we are reminded to prepare for power outages, treacherous driving conditions and frozen water pipes. But what special considerations should you make if you are caring for a baby? The good news is that by choosing to breastfeed your baby, you are already prepared for an emergency. Breastfeeding is recognized as the best way to feed your baby during any natural or man-made emergency. Many organizations, including the World Health Organization, recommend breastfeeding during an emergency. And, a key strategy of the American Academy of Pediatrics is to increase the current rate of breastfeeding to ensure that infant nutrition is optimal in the event that disaster strikes.

Breast milk is the safest food during an emergency and protects your baby from serious illnesses and health conditions. Relying on formula during an emergency may be dangerous because of the lack of availability of clean water to make a bottle, or to clean bottle parts and nipples to a safe standard. Feeding formula made with cold water can lower a baby’s core temperature, and without electricity, warm water may not be available.

Even if food is in short supply following a disaster, you can still breastfeed, but try to protect your milk supply by drinking enough fluids and eating whenever food is available. If clean water is not available, you can drink other bottled fluids like teas and sports drinks. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they tend to be dehydrating.

Here is a list of some of the reasons why breastfeeding is the best infant feeding option during an emergency:

1. Always warm and ready for baby to drink – no electricity required

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2. Always safe – no risk of contaminates from your water supply

3. Always with you – you don’t need to brave icy roads to buy it. If you rely on public transportation, it may not be operating a severe storm.

4. Lowers stress in tough situations – hormones released when baby nurses can calm you and your baby. Lower stress levels also keep your immune systems strong and ready to fight off harmful germs.

5. Your milk contains antibodies that fight infection so your baby can stay healthy, even when others are getting sick. Breastmilk creates a protective coating over your baby’s stomach, making it harder for harmful germs to get through.

6. Breastfeeding shares your body heat and helps your baby stay warm to prevent hypothermia- even when it’s cold out.

7. When you are short on food, your body still makes nutritious breast milk to satisfy your baby’s needs

For more information on caring for your baby during an emergency, check out these links:

http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/

http://www2.aap.org/

http://www.ennonline.net/

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