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INFANT FEEDING DURING NATURAL DISASTERS

INFANT FEEDING DURING NATURAL DISASTERS

Natural disasters like earthquakes or floods usually occur when least expected, in which no one are prepared for the occurrence. It is challenging for parents to feed their infants safely. Despite that, global evidence confirmed that breastfeeding during natural disasters is still essential for infants and should not be ceased.

 

Breastfeeding during Disaster? Why is it Important?

  • Reduce risk of diarrhoea. Use of infant formula during this period doubled the rates of diarrhoea due to unhygienic preparation (contaminated water supplies).
  • Prevent death from dehydration when food and water supplies ran out. 
  • Protect against respiratory illnesses which can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible.
  • Provide infants with adequate nutrition for normal growth.
  • Breastfeeding releases hormones that reduce stress and anxiety in both mothers and infants.

Barriers Faced by Mothers

Mothers often faced many challenges and barriers to optimally breastfeed during natural disasters:

  • Lack of privacy, security and comfort environment to breastfeed.
  • Mother’s limited fluid and nutrition intake. 
  • Stress and exhaustion, as well as a lack of time often due to constant movement.
  • No access to electricity, gas, safe water, and necessary infant feeding supplies to hygienically prepare infant formula.  

 

What Can Mothers Do?

For breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding remains the best option in a natural disaster situation because it is always clean, and can be provided to infants even in situation without electricity or water. 
  • Find a quite area that helps mothers to relax, and therefore it helps the milk flow to feed the baby.
  • Even mothers who have already discontinued breastfeeding may be able to restart breastfeeding (known as “relactation”).

For bottle feed:

  • Always check with local authorities on the status of the drinking water.
  • Use boiled water to prepare infant formula. 
  • Otherwise, use bottled water to prepare infant formula.
  • Clean infant feeding items before use. If not possible, use disposable cup if available. 
  • Discard bottle nipples or pacifiers that have been in contact with floodwater.
  • Wash hands before feeding. If soap and safe water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

 

How responders can help:

  • Ensure access to healthcare providers with lactation experience.
  • Create a more private and secure place for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Keep families together to create a supportive environment. 
  • Provide water and food for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Give ready-to-use infant formula and disposable cup as an alternative.

 

SUMMARY

Infant feeding during disaster is important, breastfeeding remains the best option, however if not possible, opt for bottle feeding with hygienic preparation.

 

REFERENCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Disaster Planning: Infant and Child Feeding. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/disasters-infant-feeding/index.html 

Hwang, C. H., Iellamo, A., & Ververs, M. (2021). Barriers and challenges of infant feeding in disasters in middle-and high-income countries. International Breastfeeding Journal16(1), 1-13.

Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response (n.d). Infant Feeding During Disasters. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohsepr/fact-sheet/infant-feeding-during-disasters 

U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (n.d). Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies. Retrieved from http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/emergencies 

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