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Breastfeeding During a Disaster – Typhoon Washi

Written by Crystal Karges, DTR, CLEC

There is nothing more significant or essential during the occurrence of natural disasters or catastrophes than maintaining breastfeeding between a mother and her nursing baby.  The number of emergency situations occurring world-wide that have affected mothers and infants has increased over the last several years. This can prove to be both challenging and difficult as families who have survived such unpredictable incidences are often displaced from their homes and have suffered the loss of family and property.  Additionally, the incredible stress and anxiety resulting from experiencing such a trauma can undoubtedly be enough to sever a mother’s desire to continue breastfeeding. Perhaps the most susceptible victims in the repercussions of such calamities are infants, thus increasing the need to breastfeed during emergency situations.

Recently, residents of Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines suffered the disastrous effects from Typhoon Washi, leaving countless families without homes or shelter and claiming many lives.   Amidst this tragic situation, mothers have regained hope by continuing to provide nourishment for their babies by sustaining breastfeeding.  One mother in particular, who survived the flashflood along with her husband and six-month old, shared of her decision in continuing to breastfeed her baby during this chaotic event: “I don’t feel shy or embarrassed breastfeeding in the evacuation center.”

Efforts from organizations such as UNICEF, have worked to promote breastfeeding during emergency situations, such as the devastating Typhoon Washi, by establishing breastfeeding areas within evacuation sites and conducting counseling for mothers to encourage continued breastfeeding or to assist with re-lactation.  Promoting such practices, along with the recommendations from ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association), is critically important in ensuring that infants affected by these disasters will have adequate nutrition, as well as immunological protection.  IBCLCs, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, can play a crucial role in humanitarian relief efforts to areas that have suffered natural disasters by implementing these necessary recommendations.

Though disastrous situations cannot be predicted, knowing the essentials on infant feeding in emergencies feeding can be life-saving.  Continue reading here for more information on ILCA’s Position of Infant Feeding in Emergencies.

What has been your experience in counseling the nursing mother during an emergency situation?

Crystal Karges, DTR, CLEC

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