Early childhood experts have long touted the benefit of breastfeeding, but there is an added bonus. During disasters, breast milk can make the difference between life and death for infants. In emergency situations, there may be no access to clean drinking water and therefore no way to properly sterilize baby bottles, formula, and feeding utensils. The cleanest, safest food for an infant in disasters or emergencies is human breast milk. It is nutritionally perfect; readily available without dependence on feeding supplies; and protects against diseases, especially diarrhea and respiratory infections.
Furthermore, hormones released during breastfeeding can help relieve maternal stress and anxiety. The security and warmth provided by breastfeeding is very important for both mothers and babies who find themselves thrust into the chaotic circumstances of an emergency.
In addition to relying on breastfeeding, there are other steps parents of babies should take when creating emergency plans. It is important to remember the unique needs of the youngest member of your family when putting together an emergency kit.
Baby Emergency Preparedness Kit
- Formula (even if breastfeeding)
- Sterilized bottles
- Powdered milk
- Baby wipes
- Diaper rash ointment
Young Children and Emergency Planning
You can involve young children to some degree in emergency planning. At home, everybody who is old enough should participate in evacuation drills. The basics include knowing two ways out of every room in your house in case of a fire or disaster. Planning can begin with sketching out a simple floor plan of each room, but especially bedrooms, and circling two possible exits—such as a door and window. Then as a family, you can safely practice getting out through those exits.
It can be very comforting for young children who find themselves in emergencies to have a stuffed animal or favorite baby blanket, so include a few of these small items in an emergency kit. If your child has any health issues or allergies, make sure you have medication on hand, and if the allergies are life threatening, an EpiPen or two is essential.