Disaster Planning: Feeding Infants and Children

There are many types of disasters that can occur at unpredictable times. These can include wildfires, floods, earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes, or disruptions to the supply chain! Even though we may not have a high risk of experiencing all of these in our communities it is always best to be prepared for whatever type of disaster may arise. Recently a national recall was issued on one of the largest infant formula manufacturers in the United States. This pulled a lot of formula off of grocery stores shelves. When the recall was issued it naturally instilled some alarm in families with infants in the home. Many of them purchased large amounts of other types of formula and we were left with a shortage of formula throughout the nation. Below you will find options as parents and caregivers in the event of a natural disaster or unexpected recall of formula. Below is information from CDC focused on Infant & Child Feeding during a disaster.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has been proven to be the best infant feeding option in a natural disaster. Breastfeeding can be essential especially if drinking water has been contaminated. Breastfeeding might not be an option for some mothers and caregivers but the steps below provide a guide for breastfeeding mothers.

  • Handwashing - Soap and water are always the preferred method of handwashing but in a natural disaster soap and water may not be available. In this situation, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol before breastfeeding your infant.

  • Learn how - In the event of a natural disaster, power may be out for an extended amount of time and you may not be able to use an electric breast pump. Learning how to express breast milk by hand or acquiring a manual breast pump is recommended.

  • Continue - Continuing to breastfeed is key in an emergency. There will be no certainty that formula is available. During and after a disaster it is best to stay with your breastfeeding child. This will make it much easier to feed your infant.

Formula Feeding

Formula feeding is a very common way of giving your infant the nutrition they need. If your child is only formula feeding, make sure that you have stored some formula in case of emergency. Having additional formula in a disaster is important because stores may be closed and formula will be in high demand.

  • Handwashing - Soap and water are always the preferred method of handwashing but in a natural disaster soap and water may not be available. In this situation, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol before breastfeeding your infant.

  • If you formula feed your child - Ready to use formula (if available) is recommended due to the possibility of water contamination. If ready-to-use formula is not available use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula when tap water is unsafe. If bottled water is unavailable, you can boil water. Boil water for 1 minute and let it cool before mixing it with formula. Only use treated water to prepare formula if bottled or boiled water is unavailable. If your infant is younger than three months old, was born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system, consider taking additional precautions to keep the formula from becoming contaminated.

Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding
  • Combined Feedings - If you are breastfeeding in addition to formula feeding you may want to increase the frequency of breastfeeding and decrease the amount of formula feeding. This will help increase breastmilk production and decrease the amount of formula that you would normally use but that may be hard to acquire.

  • Cleaning - Proper cleaning and storage of your infant’s feeding items are essential in keeping them healthy during a disaster. Always clean your infant’s feeding items with bottled, boiled, or treated water and soap before each use. Make sure to throw out any bottle nipples or pacifiers that have been in contact with floodwaters.

Make sure that you are prepared for the challenges that may arise during a disaster. This can include power outages, unsafe water, and unsafe or compromised living spaces. Always check with local authorities on the status of drinking water and follow boil water advisories. In this type of event consider reaching out to your local health department and/or local food bank for assistance.


https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/disasters-infant-feeding/index.html

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