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Breastfeeding During Disasters

We have become accustomed to making preparations for bad weather, floods,
and similar natural disasters. However, we rarely plan for emergency measures
as it relates to breastfeeding, during these stressful times. Please note the following list of breastfeeding emergency preparations that are
advised, if you find that you are involved in a disaster, where sanitary food and
water is limited.

5 Things You Need to Know About Breastfeeding in Emergencies

Hurricane season, in Alabama, can create disaster situations like we have recently seen in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. But hurricanes are not the only thing that can create disaster situations in our state.

During emergencies, the life-saving protection of breastfeeding is more important than ever. But as you know, breastfeeding is no easy feat. And when combined with the challenges that families face during emergencies, mothers need even more support to reach their personal breastfeeding goals.
We know that breastfeeding is the safest, most nutritious and reliable food source for infants under the age of six months. Breastmilk is always the right temperature,
requires no preparation and is readily available even in settings with limited access to clean water and adequate hygiene. Emergencies pose a significant threat, causing child mortality rates to increase up to 70 times higher than average. Emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time—putting our youngest children in an extremely vulnerable position.

Breastfeeding in emergencies is no small task—mothers face immense challenges, and we must provide support and put the rights, dignity, and well-being of mothers at the center of our focus.

Please take note of the five things that mothers and professionals need to know
about breastfeeding if a disaster should occur in our state.

1. Breastfeeding is the safest, most nutritious and reliable food source for infants
under the age of six months. Breastmilk is always the right temperature, requires no preparation and is readily available even in settings with limited access to clean
water and adequate hygiene.

2. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of infection and disease, which is vital to survival in emergency settings. Breastmilk contains antibodies and other components that protect children against deadly infections. In emergencies, when there may be limited or no access to clean water and hygienic conditions, breastfeeding can drastically reduce the risk of diarrhea and other deadly diseases.

3. Breastfeeding mothers need (even more!) support during emergencies.
With adequate support, almost all mothers can breastfeed, even in emergency
situations. Support for mothers includes privacy and space, psychological
counseling and assistance with attachment and positioning. Emergencies are
stressful and may cause trauma for mothers, which leads to a need for even more
support. For some mothers, breastfeeding can even help reduce stress.

4. When breastfeeding is not possible, immediate support is necessary to explore
feeding options and protect the health of vulnerable infants.
The use of infant formula or powdered milk can pose significant health risks to
babies in emergency situations where there may be limited or no access to clean
water and hygienic conditions. They should only be provided when all other options have been explored. Non-breastfeeding mothers should receive immediate support from professionals to assist with safe feeding options, such as hand expression or cup feeding. Infant formula and powdered milk should not be donated but rather purchased as needed and administered carefully by professionals to minimize risk.

5. Preparedness is key to ensure babies everywhere have the best opportunity to
survive and thrive. Strengthening systems and capacities for breastfeeding support is a crucial form of emergency preparedness. Putting policies, programs and actions in place will provide support for mothers to breastfeed even when they are affected by an emergency.