Breastfed Babies have a strong immune system from mom and are equipped for a range of emergencies.
There are news reports and images from around the world of unsettling events including public health emergencies, conflict, natural disasters and weather-related events. These emergencies often occur when we least expect it, or when we’re not prepared. Disasters are described as an event that causes injury, loss of life and/or property, severe damage, and can be devastating to everyone impacted. No matter where we live the possibility of an emergency exists.
Pregnant women, young children and infants can be among the most vulnerable groups during these times. Often times, there are problems obtaining and transporting food and clean water. What’s more, it might be difficult to get in to see a doctor or obtain medical care.
Nearly all the infant and child casualties during emergencies are a direct result of contaminated water and an unsanitary environment.
Breastfeeding your baby is a great way to be prepared!
Mother’s milk contains antibodies that help fight infection. Your milk is clean, and requires no electricity, fuel or water, all of which may be in short supply should disaster strike.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Increasing the current rate of breastfeeding in the United States is fundamental to optimize infant nutrition, especially when disaster strikes.” The AAP adds that mother’s milk is the safest, most reliable food source for infants during situations that may be confusing and chaotic. Mother’s milk is readily available, is already the right temperature and can provide protection against infectious disease.
Remember: In an emergency, there may not be clean drinking water, and it may be impossible to properly clean or sterilize feeding utensils, bottles or nipples.
If your power is out and you’re a mother that needs to use an electric pump, check and see if your pump can use a battery pack or if it can be converted to a manual breast pump. Or, learn how to hand express your milk. If the power goes out and you have pumped milk in the freezer (that feels like an emergency, too), here is how to protect your milk:
- If available, use a generator to keep your freezer going.
- Check with a neighbor who still has power; ask if they could store your milk temporarily.
- Try not to open the freezer door, or as little as possible so your milk will stay frozen longer. The USDA says that a full freezer will hold the temperature for about 48 hours, a half-full freezer for about 24 hours.
- Pack your milk in a cooler that is as full as possible. Crumple newspaper and place on top and around your milk to provide extra insulation.
- Extra air space in your cooler or freezer can be packed with dry ice or snow, if available.
Best advice is to not wait until an emergency to learn the importance of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be the first line of defense during difficult times.