Protecting and Supporting Breastfeeding in an Emergency
The cleanest, safest food for an infant is human milk.
Facts for Health Care Workers
- The cleanest, safest food for an infant is human milk.
- Breastfeeding is life saving protection in an emergency.
- Mothers can make plenty of milk, even if they are stressed.
- Hungry mothers still make plenty of nutritious milk.
- Babies should continue to breastfeed…even if they are sick or injured.
- Avoid routine distribution of infant formula.
- Breastfeeding can begin again, even if the mother stopped.
Strategies for Relief Organizations, Health Care Providers, and Communities
Before an Emergency:
- Provide breastfeeding training for all volunteers who will be assisting in emergency relief efforts.
- Incorporate policies that protect and support breastfeeding in emergencies as part of community emergency preparedness plans.
- Implement the guidelines of the Operational Guidance on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, developed by the Infant Feeding in Emergencies Core Group (available at www.ennonline.net).
- Identify community resources to assist with breastfeeding, including lactation consultants, medical professionals, lay support groups, and state and local breastfeeding coalitions.
During an Emergency:
- Feed mothers so they can properly meet their babies’ needs.
- Keep families together.
- Encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding! If a mother is pregnant, encourage her to breastfeed when her baby is born!
- Provide a safe place for mothers to breastfeed or express milk for their babies.
- Help mothers who have questions about breastfeeding to access support (see “Who Can Help” below).
- Do not solicit or accept donations of infant formula. Formula should be used only when the mother has already weaned and relactation is not possible or desired. If formula is used, use only ready-to-feed formula served in a cup (cups are easier to clean than bottles).
Who Can Help?
(The information above was adapted from the following resources: 2009 International Lactation Consultant Association- Written by Kendall Cox and Cathy Carothers, for World Breastfeeding Week Action Kit, “Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response. Are You Ready?.”, American Academy of Pediatrics (2007): “Infant Feeding During a Disaster: Breastfeeding and Other Options” and the United States Breastfeeding Committee Publication: Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response. Are You Ready?)
American Academy of Pediatrics (2007): “Infant Feeding During a Disaster: Breastfeeding and Other Options”
United States Breastfeeding Committee (2009): “Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response. Are You Ready?”
American Academy of Pediatrics: Children and Disasters
California Department of Public Health: Resource List
CDC National Health Statistics Report, Number 37, March 24, 2011: Hospital Preparedness for Emergency Response: United States, 2008.
Emergency Nutrition Network: “Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies”
Emergency Nutrition Network: “Media Guide on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies”
General Emergency Preparedness Information
IBFAN: “Infant Feeding in Emergency Situations”
International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA):
ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association)
ILCA’s Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Breastfeeding Mothers and Breastfeeding Support Checklist for Relief Workers and Health Workers Handout
ILCA’s Position on Infant Feeding in Emergencies
La Leche League International- Resources for Breastfeeding During Emergencies
National Conference of State Legislatures- Children and Disasters: Is Your State Prepared?
This National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Web page identifies 4 basic criteria for disaster preparedness in states and provides a state-specific report card for all states. This was adapted from Save the Children, A National Report Card on Protecting Children During Disasters, July 2010.
Texas WIC: “Infant Feeding in Disasters”
UNICEF: “Nutritional Security in Emergencies” and “The Code and Infant Feeding in Emergencies” (2009)
United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC):
Support of Breastfeeding in Aftermath of Hurricanes
USBC Urges Support of Breastfeeding in Emergencies
Breastfeeding Recommended to Protect Infants During Swine Flu Outbreak
Wellstart International (2005): “Infant and young Child Feeding in Emergency Situations”
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) (2005): “Fact Sheet on Feeding Babies in Emergencies”
World Health Organization’s Guidelines for Feeding Infants and Young Children in an Emergency:
WHO 2004: “Guiding Principles for Feeding Infants and Young Children During Emergencies”
WHO 2007: “Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies: Operational Guidance for Emergency Relief Staff and Programme Managers”
(Most of the above list was compiled by Anne Altshuler, RN, MS, IBCLC, April 2010)