Breastfeeding In Crisis Situations
Emergency Breastfeeding and Survival
By: kieransmom on: Fri 25 of May, 2007 [00:44 UTC] (3645 reads)
When a mother and child find themselves embroiled in a crisis situation, fear can easily take over during war, terrorist attacks, hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disasters. During times of such disasters, many governments respond by distributing infant formula, but that has been proven to cause further catastrophe.
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In 1990, UNICEF found infant mortality related to formula feeding increases as much as twenty-five percent in disasters because of poor hygiene, contaminated water supply, limited access to formula, and unsterilized bottles and storage containers.
Breastfeeding is critical to infants' survival during emergencies because it provides an unlimited and safe food source, protection from illness, and a warm, secure place that calms both baby and mother. Breastfeeding provides protection against respiratory illnesses and diarrhea. This is especially important during disruption of water and power services. Here are some survival tips to breastfeeding through an emergency.
Concerns About Milk Supply - Stress
The phenomenon of an inhibited let-down reflex during stress is actually a defense mechanism that developed in early humans. When an attacking saber tooth tiger or other danger threatened a mother and her child, it was time to run away, not to sit and nurse.
Although anxiety temporarily inhibits the let-down reflex, with continued, frequent breastfeeding and conscious efforts to relax, the mother's milk supply will soon be regulated with baby's demand. Mothers who live in areas that are in constant state of war report no inhibition of let-down, as they have adapted to their circumstances.
Concerns About Milk Supply - Malnutrition
Also, when a mother is not receiving adequate nutrition or water, she will still have adequate stores to produce an ample milk supply for her child or children. Of course, the mother herself may suffer from fatigue and dehydration, but this is better than the alternative. Only when a mother has been in famine conditions for several weeks or months will her supply and milk's nutritional quality be lowered.
Relactation And Induced Lactation
After you've weaned your baby, or if you never nursed and your baby is less than six months old, you may be able to stimulate milk production. By putting the child to breast for each feeding and for comfort between feedings, with frequent hand expression or use of a pump, and (if available) taking herbal supplementation such as fenugreek, you can induce lactation.
Initially you may be producing only drops per day. The more milk that is removed from your breasts one day, the more you will make the next day. How long the process of relactation takes depends on individual women. With younger babies, the milk supply increases more quickly, but many older babies and toddlers have also successfully returned to nursing.
Potassium Iodide Tablets
The threat of a terrorist attack involving radiation or radioactive materials such as radioactive iodine is extremely frightening, and many mothers wonder if these tablets are safe. The FDA and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that children from newborn to 18 years of age all take the recommended dose of KI unless they have a known allergy to iodide.
Women who are breastfeeding should also take KI, to protect both themselves and their breast milk. Breastfeeding infants should be given the recommended dosage of KI to protect them from any radioactive iodine that they may breathe in or drink in breast milk.
Evacuation From Hurricane Or Other Threats
Sitting for days in traffic jams, attempts to find loved ones amid debris and destruction, and crowded conditions at shelters are horrid. The sight of frantic mothers seeking formula and clean water for their hungry babies is heartbreaking.
Many of these moms have been known to beg lactating mothers to nurse their children in addition to their own, and of course, many nursing mothers do so out of compassion. The suckling child is able to bury his head into the breast and thus does not see the terrible sights of his surroundings.
Donating Blood While Lactating
There is some debate whether nursing mothers should donate blood. The American Red Cross defers pregnant women, and accepts nursing mothers six weeks after an uncomplicated delivery, but defers mothers for twelve months if their delivery required a blood transfusion.
Many physicians say that blood donation is okay as long as the nursing mother is not anemic, still others do not recommend blood donation at all. If a breastfeeding mother chooses to donate blood, she needs to know that her milk is 87% water, and a blood donation takes 16 ounces of blood from the body.
She'll need to drink enough to replace all that liquid. Also, blood donors are advised to avoid heavy lifting with the arm used to donate for several hours. Following this advise may be impossible for mothers who must carry their children.
Mother Benefits From Breastfeeding During Crisis
A mother will benefit from nursing her children when she is in a crisis. The release of the hormone prolactin has a calming effect, and will help her to get some much needed rest. The rhythmic sucking of a child at her breast will calm her, even if she is not producing much milk.
Likewise, in crises other than war or natural disaster, a mother can usually breastfeed if she is sick or has a surgery. Many mothers keep their breastfeeding infants in the hospital with them, which is a shared comfort to both mother and child.
There are many medications that are compatible with breastfeeding. Even when the health care provider recommends weaning, that may be just the opposite of what a mother should do. It's best to get a second opinion from a health care provider who is knowledgeable about lacation.