In emergency situations, babies have an increased need for the disease-fighting factors and the comfort provided by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is especially recommended during a disaster because it is naturally clean. Refrigeration, bottles, or water for preparing formula are not necessary.
Breast milk is the best food for a baby during the first year of life. In emergencies, it’s usually best for the baby if the mother can continue to breastfeed. If pre-prepared formula is unavailable or water supplies are unsafe, breastfeeding is especially wise. Breast milk can be especially good for premature babies.
While stress may affect milk supply, breastfeeding itself can help to reduce stress. When you breastfeed, your body creates hormones that are calming. Do your best to make breastfeeding time as relaxed as you can under the circumstances.
If breastfeeding has been interrupted, the La Leche League provides information to help you start again. The International Lactation Consultant Association also provides help with breastfeeding. Call (919) 787-5181.
Some women may find it impossible to continue to breastfeed. If this occurs, wean the baby as slowly as possible. This is important for both your health and the baby’s. Hold and cuddle your baby as much as possible to reduce your baby’s stress. In a disaster, pre-prepared formula is recommended because of concerns about water safety.
The La Leche League provides information about breastfeeding for women affected by disasters.
If you are staying in a shelter and need help with breastfeeding, ask the medical staff for assistance.
If breastfeeding is not possible, have a supply of single-serving, ready-to-feed formula. Ready-to-feed formula does not need mixing, and water should not be added to it. When using ready-to-feed formula, pour the needed amount into a bottle, and throw away the formula that the baby does not drink if you cannot refrigerate it. After it is opened, the formula must be refrigerated.
Regarding water for drinking, cooking and bathing, listen to and follow public announcements. Local authorities will tell you if tap water is safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. If the water is not safe to use, follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect tap water for cooking, cleaning or bathing.
If tap water is not safe, boiling is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. To kill most organisms, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
If you can’t boil unsafe tap water, you can treat it with chlorine tablets or iodine tablets. Follow the directions that come with the tablets. Keep treated water out of reach of children and toddlers.
If you have a baby and are not breastfeeding, ready-to-feed formula is recommended because of concerns about water safety. Do not use water treated with iodine or chlorine tablets to prepare powdered formulas.
Moms should do their best to drink at least six to eight glasses (eight-ounce servings) of water, juice or milk every day.
For more information about caring for a newborn after a disaster, read this article.