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Participating in an Emergency Preparedness Fair

Patricia DuBray
Elk Grove CA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 2, April-May-June 2007, p. 41

Several months ago, my church congregation collaborated with the Community Services District in my community to put on an Emergency Preparedness Fair. Knowing that the key organizer of the fair had family experience and a strong interest in breastfeeding, I inquired about having a booth representing breastfeeding. He assured me that it would be no problem and that he was interested to see information about breastfeeding in an emergency/disaster situation as well as the advantages of breastfeeding in a non-emergency situation. I submitted a proposal of my plans to him and awaited his reply. Several phone calls and emails later, I learned that the key organizer would be out of town during the event and had left in charge others who had no record of my intent to participate. Following some uncertainty about whether I would be included or not, it was finally established on the evening before the event that we would have a booth and that La Leche League would be represented.

I had researched LLLI resources, finding the press releases related to Hurricane Katrina most informative. Still, a part of me was nervous. Would I fit in? Was my message worthwhile? Did I belong? I arrived the morning of the fair to find every professional organization represented. My exhibit was not nearly as "slick" as the American Red Cross, fire department, ham radio operators, local health care professionals, and solar cooking demonstrators. I began shaking and quaking. Feeling inadequate and ready to run, I asked myself what I was doing there. I was alone in this venture partly due to my own choices. I had hesitated to ask my co-Leaders to join me at the event due to their young babies' needs.

I truly owe my success to my family and friends. I set up my booth and proceeded to have a brief "therapy session" with my husband about my message and how I belonged. Still needing support, I called Sara, a local childbirth educator, to boost my morale. As soon as the doors opened at 10 am, my fears dissipated, and my mouth was open to speak. My message was brief and concise: during an emergency, breastfeeding saves lives and prevents illnesses. I did have an important message and purpose! The information I had to share was valuable and had the potential to be as lifesaving in an emergency as learning CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). I told mothers, "You are your baby's 72-hour emergency preparedness kit!"

I estimated that over 800 people walked past my booth. I believe that I personally spoke to over 300 people about the importance of breastfeeding a baby in an emergency. I explained that sometimes in an emergency, a mother wonders if she can continue breastfeeding after consuming contaminated water. The ability to continue breastfeeding a baby in an emergency can save the infant's life. Many in attendance were retired citizens within the community. Despite being past breastfeeding age themselves, they might have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews who someday could use the information I had to offer.

From the media releases on the LLLI Web site, I had created a basic handout about breastfeeding and its advantages and included local information about LLL contacts. I also produced a handout of lactation support in our community. Several in attendance (doctors, emergency services, Women Infants and Children [WIC]) were organizers for various community service resources and took our information to add to their resources. One woman writes for a local Spanish emergency services program and wanted permission to translate the handout I had created. Although all of the information included in the handout is available on the LLLI Web site, I found it personally rewarding to hand her the hard copy of the media press releases as well as the LLLI Web site information.

The fair lasted until 3 pm. Many people commented on how glad they were that I was present and that they had never given thought to how contaminated water, illness, and disease in an emergency could affect mothers and babies. I was thankful to be a part of such a great endeavor and felt honored to represent La Leche League.

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