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Media Release:
Breastfeeding Can Save Lives When an Emergency Strikes


Contact Information: Jane Crouse, PRManager at (847) 519-7730, Ext. 271.

September 1, 2008 (Schaumburg, IL) - During an emergency, such as the devastation being caused by the 2008 hurricane season in the Atlantic, breastfeeding saves lives.

Breastfeeding protects babies from the risks of a contaminated water supply. It provides protection against respiratory illnesses and diarrhea—diseases that can be fatal in populations displaced by disaster.

As the International Baby Food Action Network Web site states, “Artificial feeding in these situations is difficult and increases the risk of malnutrition, disease and infant death. The basic resources needed for artificial feeding, such as clean water and fuel, are scarce in emergencies.” The transportation and proper storage of human milk substitutes can cause additional problems.

The basics of breastfeeding during an emergency are much the same as they are under normal circumstances. Continuing to breastfeed whenever the baby seems hungry maintains a mother’s milk supply and provides familiar comfort for both her and her baby. Measures that keep the mother safe, well-nourished, and free from illness will also help protect her baby.


If it is within even five days of the birth, a mother can have a full milk supply quickly by putting the baby to the breast immediately and breastfeeding the baby, every two to three hours or more frequently. Breast milk is 87% water, so the mother should drink to thirst plus a little bit more. Drinking too much water is not recommended as it may make the mother uncomfortable and does not increase the mother’s milk supply.


A mother whose baby is under six months old may also be able to provide her milk for her baby, even if she has not breastfed the baby before disaster strikes. The mother can relactate by putting the baby to breast or by expressing milk from the breast (using hand expression or a breast pump) every two hours. Initially, she may be producing only drops of milk per day. Some mothers find that their supply increases by about one ounce every 24 hours. The mother may then decrease the amount of formula (or donated human milk) by about one ounce a day. It is common for mothers of younger babies to be able to establish a full milk supply more rapidly than mothers of older babies.

For more information on breastfeeding during an emergency, see Resources for Breastfeeding During Emergencies, Response to Crisis or Emergency

La Leche League Leaders are trained community volunteers and experienced nursing mothers, who answer questions about breastfeeding. Contact an LLL Leader in the U.S. on our Web site or call 800 LA LECHE, and select option 4. Breastfeeding help is also available 24 hours a day by calling toll-free in the U.S. at 877-4-LALECHE (877-452-5324).

Since 1956 La Leche League International, a nonprofit organization now in almost 70 countries, has helped mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, and education.

Contact Information: JCrouse at at (847) 519-7730, ext. 271.

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