During an emergency, the safest course is to breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding uses fewer supplies since the mother provides all of the food for the baby. This reduces the risk for contamination or spoiled food while ensuring a nutritionally balanced diet for the baby.
For the mother who is able to stay with her baby for the duration of a disaster incident the breastfed baby doesn't need anything else, such as additional water, formula or bottles. A mother who might be separated from her baby for a period of time should have a portable manual breast pump, small cups or bottles, and cleaning supplies. Mothers could benefit from a sling or tie-on baby carrier, diapers, wipes, a changing pad, and clean clothes.
Below is a chart on infant feeding during disasters and some common myths about breastfeeding during disasters.
MYTH: Women who are experiencing stress cannot breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is actually an important form of stress relief for both mothers and babies. If the baby appears hungrier, mothers can simply breastfeed more frequently. It is recommended that mothers be supported wherever and whenever they feed their babies. Those who want more privacy can be provided a private space to use for breastfeeding. Mothers benefit from social support and access to lactation professionals. All babies need their mothers to remain close to them day and night.
MYTH: Mothers must be healthy and have good nutritional intake to produce healthy milk.
Mothers make wonderfully healthy milk regardless of their own nutrition and health status. Mothers who are ill or malnourished should be provided with extra food and medical care as soon as possible. Mothers can and should continue to breastfeed their babies even if they are receiving medical or nutritional care themselves.
MYTH: Formula has nearly the same nutritional value as nursing.
Breast milk contains natural antibodies which protect against (most) illnesses, is nutritionally complete, clean and safe. Breastfeeding does not require bottles or other equipment, which can be hard to clean in a disaster situation. Breast milk is more easily digested than formula, and breastfed babies produce less and different waste in their diapers. Breastfeeding significantly lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
MYTH: Once you have stopped nursing, it is impossible to start again.
It is possible to relactate after stopping breastfeeding. Increasing skin-to-skin contact and frequent attempts to breastfeed can help. Working with skilled healthcare workers can be helpful during the relactation process. While relactation is in process, babies may need milk provided by other means. Cup-feeding is recommended instead of using bottles because cups are easier to clean, and may make the transition back to breastfeeding easier.