Natural disasters can be especially dangerous for infants
and young children. This danger lies not only with flying debris or floodwaters
or high winds. Even something as simple as feeding a baby can become highly
stressful—and, at times, dangerous—when an emergency strikes.
This fact is on many parents' minds, as so many people are reeling from Hurricane Harvey and expecting the devastation from Hurricane Irma.
Here some tips that parents can use to help them
navigate the stresses of feeding their babies during a natural disaster.
Have you stocked up
on clean water? Although the tap water in your area may normally be a safe
option to mix with formula, your water supply can become contaminated following
a natural disaster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends
having one gallon of water per person in your household per day, and enough
water for each person for three days. Unopened bottled water is typically your
safest option in an emergency. Nonetheless, if you find yourself unable to find
enough water for your family—including any infants who might need it for their
formula—you can also follow the CDC’s guidelines on preparing a safe
emergency water supply.
Do you have some
ready-to-feed formula on hand? Though they are typically more expensive,
these formula options can come in handy—and might even be life-saving—if you
run out of clean water. Please take caution if you are tempted to pre-mix a
big batch of formula before disaster strikes. Even in the absence of an
emergency, formula is generally only safe to drink for 24 hours after it has been mixed.
Do you have a
sterilization plan in place? Sterilizing bottles, nipples and other
formula supplies can be challenging, if not impossible, if your water supply is
contaminated and your electricity is out. Try
assembling a makeshift sterilizing kit before disaster strikes and follow
the cleaning guidelines recommended by the CDC. Make sure to include some paper towels in your cleaning plan. If the
weather is hot and the electricity is out, cloth drying towels will become mildewy fast,
and you probably won’t be able to wash them anytime soon.
Storing breastmilk in
your freezer? You’ve probably seen the quarter-in-the-freezer
trick on social media. Simply freeze a cup of water and then place a quarter
on top of it before you evacuate your home. Once you’re able to return home,
check the quarter. If it’s still on top of the ice, the contents of your
freezer—including your breastmilk—should be safe. That shows that the power didn't go out, making the frozen water melt. If the quarter has sunk into
the ice at all, you’ll need to throw away whatever is in your freezer. Don’t
take any chances: That liquid gold isn’t so golden if it’s ridden with harmful
Are you staying
hydrated, too? Don’t worry so much about whether or not you’re getting your
daily whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Your body will continue to
make breastmilk that is still nourishing and hydrating for your baby. Just make
sure that you drink plenty of water and breastfeed your baby
regularly in order to maintain your supply.
For All Parents
and Parent Advocates
Are you washing your
hands regularly? Keeping babies healthy is a top priority during a natural
disaster. You can help stop the spread of harmful disease and bacteria by
washing your hands regularly, especially before breastfeeding or preparing
formula for your baby. If your water supply is contaminated and you can’t wash
your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol gel instead.
And, finally, are you
adding an extra dose of compassion to your advocacy? Now is not the time to
shame other parents for how they feed their babies. It’s not the time to argue
about which feeding method is better than the other. It’s only time to support
one another with love and respect.
"The Big Bang Theory" star is a passionate advocate of extended breastfeeding, and nursed her son until he was 4. Bialik shares on her blog, "I never ever believed that I would be nursing a child over the age of 3. But now that I am, I believe when he is done, he will be done. I believe that he will not need to nurse before he walks down the aisle to greet his bride ... and I believe that nursing is natural and beautiful and wonderful."