Infant Nutrition During a Disaster

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT INFANT NUTRITION DURING A NATURAL DISASTER

Hurricane Sandy is a reminder to us all that crises can occur at any time. While we are all working to pull our lives back together, it is important to remember the most vulnerable in our population - our infants and young children. Clean, reliable nutrition is a necessity in a natural disaster. Here are some tips to ensure that you provide the safest possible nutrition for your little ones. 

IF YOU ARE BREASTFEEDING:

  • Breastfeeding really can save lives in a critical time such as this. It is most important to breastfeed as much as possible. Even if your diet during this time is not optimal, your breast milk will provide all of the necessary nutrients and hydration for your baby. There is no need to supplement with infant formula or other food substitutes if you are already breastfeeding exclusively. However, it is important to ensure that you are adequately hydrated so that your milk volume stays up.
  •  Emotional stress can affect your milk supply; however, you can continue to make plenty of milk for your baby. Try to breastfeed in a calm, quiet environment as much as you possibly can.
  • Using hand expression can assist in keeping up your milk supply. Hand expression is easy: position your thumb approximately one inch above and your remaining fingers one inch below your areola, push back toward your chest, squeeze gently, then release pressure. You should see milk coming out.You can see at video of this at: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/HandExpression.html
  • If you have to stop breastfeeding, you can help your body make milk again. This is called re-lactation. Ask for a lactation consultant or specialist to help you.

IF YOU ARE FORMULA FEEDING

  • During times of emergency, your water supply can easily become contaminated with germs that can harm your baby.Therefore, it is critical that you take care in preparing bottles of formula. Ready-to-feed, single serving bottles of formula are sterile and the most ideal choice for your baby during this time. 
  • If you must use concentrate or powdered formula, proper sterilization techniques are important to reduce risk of contamination. Whenever possible, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute, then cooled for approximately 30 minutes prior to mixing with formula. In addition, sterilize bottles, nipples, and rings by boiling and air-drying afterwards. More information on how to do this can be found here:http://www.foodsahttp://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/babyfood/index.htmlfety.gov/keep/types/babyfood/index.html. If boiling water is not an option, the next best choice is to use bottled water. 
  • Prior to any formula preparation handwashing is a must. Handwashing remains as one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of germs. Using plenty of soap, rub the hands for at least 30 seconds prior to rinsing. Antimicrobial soap is not necessary, any type of brand will do. Don't forget to clean under your fingernails! 
  • If you do not have access to a reliable, clean water supply for handwashing, then using alcohol gel is the next most appropriate choice. For alcohol gels to carry any effect, gels must contain between 62% and 80% alcohol (the best is 75-80% of the ingredient "ethanol," "isopropanol," or "n-propanol"). You must rub at least a teaspoon into the hands, taking care to cover all surfaces and under the fingernails, then allow to air-dry completely.

FOR ALL BABIES

  • If your home has no heat, keeping your baby warm can be a challenge. Using skin-to-skin care - that is, placing your baby tummy-down, his bare chest onto your bare chest, and covering both yourself and your baby with a thick warm robe or blanket - is a great way to keep him warm. It also carries the additional benefit of keeping up milk supply if you are breastfeeding. Co-sleeping is not recommended.

Nearly 95% of infant and child deaths in emergencies result from contaminated water and unsanitary environments. The risk of death and hospitalization from contamination can best be reduced with breastfeeding; if you choose not to breastfeed, you can still greatly reduce the chances of your baby being ill with simple techniques like those stated above. Here are some other resources that you may find helpful:

http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/files/pdf/InfantNutritionDisaster.pdf

Please contact our infant nutrition warm line at 732-776-3329 for more information.

Stay safe!

Rose St. Fleur, MD, FAAP
Member, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
Pediatric Physician Champion, Jersey Shore University Breastfeeding Task Force
Chapter Breastfeeding Coordinator, American Academy of Pediatrics NJ Chapter
Jersey Shore University Medical Cente

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