Important Message from the United States Breastfeeding Committee

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Birth of a Mom

As Southeastern states are currently weathering Hurricane Isaac, it is important to inform health care and emergency relief workers, the public, and the media about the important role of breastfeeding and human milk during emergencies.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable during disasters. In fact, nearly 95% of infant and child deaths in emergencies result from diarrhea due to contaminated water and an unsanitary environment. When water quality is questionable, breastfeeding provides the safest source of nutrition as well as protection against the many prevalent infections that accompany poor sanitation and crowded shelter conditions.

During emergencies, remember:

  • Avoid separation of mothers and children.
  • Human milk is always clean and requires no fuel, water, or electricity.
  • Do not give babies water. Mom’s milk is sufficient to keep a baby hydrated.
  • If a woman is breastfeeding, shelter staff should not offer formula. This is not helpful and can negatively impact the breastfeeding relationship.
  • Support breastfeeding families by maintaining a calm attitude and providing a safe, comfortable area for mothers to feed their children. If a woman is having difficulty, help her get in touch with someone from any or all of the Breastfeeding resources listed below.
  • By keeping children close, breastfeeding provides comfort, care, and security for the mother-child pair.
  • Breast pumps are allowed in shelters. If a woman has been exclusively pumping, she can bring her pump and supplies to the shelter. Mothers can also hand-express their milk.
  • Breastfeeding mothers require additional food and water.
  • Any mother delivering during the emergency should be supported to breastfeed her baby.

Breastfeeding resources:

The USBC Statement on Infant/Young Child Feeding in Emergencies includes additional guidelines. Further information and resources on infant and young child feeding in emergencies can be found at

To donate breast milk to support mothers before, during, and after emergency situations, contact the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio at (614) 544-0810.

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