It’s hurricane season again in Florida and Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies or IYCF-E is near and dear to us. Weather forecasters report Hurricane Dorian will be a big one-quite possibly up there with the historic Hurricane Andrew. The hurricane’s path is still unclear, but it’s undoubtedly best to be prepared as it may make landfall on the Florida coast and we will be impacted in some way. If this is your first hurricane season with a breastfeeding baby, you may be wondering what to do differently to prepare; we’ve got you covered. Breastfeeding in an emergency provides food and security. Here are five simple things to remember to keep you stress-free, your milk supply plentiful and your baby happy and full of milk.
Stress and Supply
Hurricane season comes every year for Floridians. There is no shortage of hilarious memes and many jokes about the parties we have. In all seriousness though, the threat of a hurricane can be stressful. Worrying about your family, your home and your vehicles with heavy rain and wind and possibly no electricity puts many of us into high stress and panic mode. Add into that a baby who is solely dependent on your breastmilk and it’s code red! Keep in mind, short term stress typically does not impact a milk supply. Keep your baby close (skin to skin if possible) and feed often and your supply (and baby) will thank you!
You’ve worked hard these past several weeks and months to create your freezer stash. All the bags are dated and stacked neatly. Whether you have five ounces or 50 ounces, you are likely worried about a power outage during a hurricane that may affect that stored milk. Our number one tip is simple: keep your freezer closed. Don’t peek! Also, consider storing the bags in a separate bowl or extra bag just in case they thaw and leak. Pack extra freezer packs or frozen water bottles around the bags to keep them cold longer. What about our exclusively bottle feeding families using only stored milk? Take what you’ll need for the next couple days and store it in a cooler for immediate use. You can use regular ice or dry ice to keep things cold in the cooler. Don’t fret-remember the storage guidelines. As long as there is still some slushy breastmilk ice in your storage bags (i.e. your milk is not completely thawed) it can be stored for several days. And remember, milk with ice in it is able to be re-frozen. Completely thawed milk must be used within 24 hours. What if you are evacuating with frozen breastmilk? We love this article from two years ago when Hurricane Irma was bearing down on us https://bfnews.blogspot.com/2017/09/evacuating-with-frozen-breast-milk.html?fbclid=IwAR03m0OWdIFi-utIIGhDdfWvGmxhplg-bpeKryHXB09mdy9Vhj8LGGm5SeQ
Going without Electricity when Pumping
It is all too common to lose electricity at least for a little while when we have high winds and flooding during a hurricane. If you depend on an electric pump at all, this section is for you. If you don’t already have a hand/manual pump, now may be the time to invest. Practice using it and use it as frequently as you would your electric pump. Use hand massage to increase breast emptying. Simple hand expression is also an option and is FREE! Check out this video to brush up. https://med.stanford.edu/newborns/professional-education/breastfeeding/hand-expressing-milk.html If your electricity goes out and you can’t plug your electric pump in, hand expression will be your breast friend.
If you are using infant formula to supplement your breastfed baby, there are some important things to remember for safely preparing formula when access to clean water is reduced which is often the case during hurricanes. When preparing your household for a hurricane, be sure to grab extra water for formula preparation. Powdered infant formula is NOT sterile, so it is very important to properly heat the water to boiling first when mixing it with the formula. Need more info? Check out this handy guideline from the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/micro/PIF_Bottle_en.pdf You’ll also need to consider how you’ll clean those bottles and bottle nipples if your access to clean running water is limited. Bottled water and a dedicated wash basin is one idea. Cup feeding for a short period of time is another. Cups have less nooks and crannies for formula to gather and bacteria to grow. Another option, although admittedly more expensive, is to stock Ready To Feed formula (pre-made liquid formula) for this short period of time which carries a much lower risk of contamination.
Know your Support options
If after reading this, you still have questions, please know there is support out there at your fingertips. Hotlines, warm lines and of course us! Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. Although Publix and Target may run dry of supplies quickly and your local gas station may have lines out into the street, we are getting better and better when it comes to infant feeding support during hurricane season. Miami-Dade County WIC has a warm line you can call and they will respond within 24 hours 786-336-1336. The National Women’s Helpline for breastfeeding help is available in English or Spanish 1-800-994-9662. We also have La Leche League’s 24 hour helpline 1-877-452-5324. And if these still don’t answer your questions, please feel free to call us-we can help!