I realize that for my readers living in the American Tornado Alley this post might be a little late. But if you’re living near the Atlantic Ocean, hurricane season is just getting started. (And NOAAA says this season is going to be a doozy.) And if you’re living on a fault-line the threat of an earthquake is ever present. After you’ve stockpiled your buckets of food, generator and jugs of water, what about the baby?

There’s a couple of things to know…

Breastfeeding During An Emergency

Breastfeeding is ideal during an emergency. Breastmilk straight from the breast is sterile and requires no water or power to prepare or store- both of which may be in short supply in a disaster scenario. Remember, after a serious hurricane, earthquake, etc. power and water will probably not be available. Even if you have powdered formula and stored water available, the bottles and nipples will still need to be sterilized for safe feeding and if there is no power available to heat water for cleaning and sterilizing and no refrigeration for stored formula then the baby is at risk for illness from contamination.

There is an idea circulating that women can’t breastfeed during a disaster because they won’t make milk or have a let down. This is only sort-of true. Adrenaline release during a stressful situation can inhibit the letdown reflex. And some women do experience a temporary supply drop during stressful times. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t breastfeed during a disaster situation.

You can help both your milk supply and letdown reflex during stressful times by nursing your baby frequently and using relaxation techniques. Deep breathing skin-to-skin contact with your baby (if safe) can help reduce the levels of adrenaline and allow for letdown to occur. There are also some scripts and exercises for visualization and relaxation that have been shown to help mothers with inhibited letdown. Ask emergency workers if there is a quiet place for you to breastfeed, they should be willing to help because breastfeeding a baby will reduce the risk of the baby getting sick. You can still breastfeed even if your calorie intake drops for a short time or eating gets a little crazy during evacuation.

I did experience inhibited letdown and a supply drop during stressful time. My baby was nine months old, so we gave her a little more solids to be on the safe side and I just kept nursing her frequently- really frequently. The more a baby feeds at the breast, the more milk the mother will make, so if you keep nursing it will drive up your supply. My letdown returned and my milk supply came back up after about a day and returned to normal within about two days. I do wish I had tried a few more relaxation techniques though. I think it would have helped.

Formula feeding during an emergency

If you are partially or fully formula feeding, ready-to feed-formula is the safest choice!!! Make sure you have plenty in your emergency storage. Only use powdered formula if there is bottled or boiled water available and it can be put in sterilized bottles.

Supplies for Emergency Infant Feeding

From the International Breastfeeding Journal:

An emergency preparedness kit for exclusively breastfed infants should include:

  • 100 diapers
  • 200 wipes

The contents of an emergency preparedness for formula fed infants will vary depending on whether ready-to-use liquid infant formula or powdered infant formula is used.

For ready-to-use liquid infant formula, an emergency kit should include:

  • 56 servings of ready-to-use liquid infant formula
  • 84 L water
  • storage container
  • metal knife
  • small bowl
  • 56 feeding bottles and nipples/cups
  • 56 zip-lock plastic bags
  • 220 paper towels
  • dishwashing soap
  • 120 antiseptic wipes
  • 100 diapers and
  • 200 wipes.

If powdered infant formula is used, an emergency preparedness kit should include:

  • two 900 g cans powdered infant formula
  • 170 L drinking water
  • storage container
  • large cooking pot with lid
  • kettle
  • gas stove
  • box of matches/lighter
  • 14 kg liquid petroleum gas
  • measuring container
  • metal knife
  • metal tongs
  • feeding cup
  • 300 large sheets paper towel
  • dishwashing soap
  • 100 diapers
  • 200 wipes
  • The instructions on how to use all this are pretty lengthy, so see the article here.

If you’re concerned about the possibility of baby and mother being separated in a disaster situation, you can store materials for formula feeding as well.

To help with relaxation for milk supply and letdown, you can try storing some things like a vial of lavender essential oil to sniff. Kelly Bonyata says some mothers have used a homeopathic remedy called Rescue Remedy and it has helped them with inhibited letdown and stress.

You can also have printed and laminated scripts for visualization and relaxation in your kit  as well. Links for these are here, here (biofeedback techniques for pumping, but can be applied to relaxation for breastfeeding), and here (scroll down to the bottom the page, it’s the one called “relaxation and desensitization scripts by David Ross, College of Lake County”; it’s downloadable).

From the WHO- An article on supporting breastfeeding mothers during disaster and in refugee camps.

From Diana D. Bienvenu, Breastfeeding Coordinator and Pediatrician at LSU Health Sciences Center- Powerpoint on infant feeding during natural disasters.


One Comment on “Feeding a Baby When An Emergency Strikes

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