Saturday, August 01, 2009

Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response Are you ready?

Today marks the first day of World Breastfeeding Week.

On the website, it states the objectives of World Breastfeeding Week this year.

  • To draw attention to the vital role that breastfeeding plays in emergencies worldwide.
  • To stress the need for active protection and support of breastfeeding before and during emergencies.
  • To inform mothers, breastfeeding advocates, communities, health professionals, governments, aid agencies, donors, and the media on how they can actively support breastfeeding before and during an emergency.
  • To mobilise action and nurture networking and collaboration between those with breastfeeding skills and those involved in emergency response.

I thought I'd start out WBW by sharing some news stories of breastfeeding in emergencies.
  • The story of the mother keeping her infant and 4 year old alive with breastmilk while they were stranded in the cold. Sadly, the father was found dead due to the elements as he went to go find help.
  • The Chinese police officer who breastfed others' children during an earthquake emergency.
  • After a mom died of complications in birth, a group of women made arrangements to come feed the baby around the clock. An update on that story is here.
While I've never been in an emergency where breastfeeding was a lifesaver, I have breastfed another child because their family was going through a family emergency. The mom was in pain and needed to have her gall bladder removed the same week that the father was out of town and couldn't be back for a few more days due to flight issues. How convenient! Some friends watched the kids (3 and 1) for a night and a day until their grandma was able to take them. I helped out and a couple of times nursed the 3 year old (the 1 year old was being picky of who she nursed from and eventually decided on another friend). It was my first experience nursing a toddler, cross-nursing, and tandem nursing- when Margaret saw the little boy latch on, she wanted on too! It was really endearing watching them smile at each other from across the breast. We knew the mom would be ok with it and she later told us that she was grateful that we were able to give her children comfort while she was hospitalized and her husband was 1000 miles away.

I share this story because I know when we think of breastfeeding in emergencies, we think of natural disasters. And while here in Utah it's unlikely that a hurricane will come and knock out the electricity for a few days, we are always prone to other sorts of emergencies like this one or like that time when we had no water for an evening because of road work outside. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful way to be prepared.


  1. Excellent! I love that you point out that emergencies aren't always natural disasters! (But don't feel too safe from hurricanes, just because your inland! I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and we got our power knocked out by Hurrican Ike last year! Crazy!)

    I'm doing breastfeeding posts all week in honor of WBW. I'm excited to read everyone else's, too!

  2. What a sweet story you shared. I would totally bf another child if the mom was okay with it, but I don't know if others would do the same for my child.

  3. love it!!

    I wish I knew women like you locally -- to know that if there was a need there would be someone willing and able to BF my kids if for some reason I couldn't -- priceless! and vice versa of course. it would be nice to be able to offer help of this kind without ppl looking at you like you are some kind of freak!!

  4. A little hint for the breastfeeding mom with a hospital emergency - demand a breast pump!!! I was very engorged after surgery and had them bring me one the moment I was coherent again.


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