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Hurricane Sandy: Tips on Maintaining Breastfeeding Success During an Emergency

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As the east coast begins to deal with the reality of Hurricane Sandy, breastfeeding moms should consider taking steps that will help ensure maximum continued breastfeeding success during the emergency, which could involve situations such as loss of power, less access to clean water and evacuation. All the stress moms undergo in emergencies also is something not to be overlooked, as it, too, can impact breastfeeding.

Protecting Frozen Breast Milk

Back up generators are especially helpful for breastfeeding moms during an emergency. The generators can help to power your freezer, which often holds an abundance of liquid gold, the result of many hours of pumping.

For those that don't have access to a generator, here are some tips on other solutions:
  • Get a cooler and fill it with dry ice, keep it on hand just in case your electricity goes out and you have frozen milk stored in your freezer. Dry ice can be found at most local grocery stores.
  • If you can't get dry ice, prepare your freezer to stay cold longer by filling up your ice trays or have two bags of ice in a cooler.
  • Move frozen milk to the back of the freezer where it will stay colder longer than if it's in the freezer door.
  • If your electricity goes out, do not open the door, which will let the cool air out. If you have to open the door do it as quickly as you can.

Another great option is to seek help from family, friends and neighbors who may still have power (or a generator) and extra space in their freezer. Beyond this group, you also may consider your local religious or community centers, schools or an office to which you, your partner or friends may have access.

Please remember that refreezing partially thawed breastmilk is not recommended. Previously frozen milk that has been thawed can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. However, breastmilk that is thawed, heated and partially consumed (if baby starts a bottle and does not finish) must be used within an hour. See further tips about breastmilk storage and transportation at OnCloudMom.

Pumping with No Electricity

As frequent-traveler breastfeeding moms know, manual breast pumps can provide help in situations when you don't readily have access to electrical outlets or on the go. If you don't have a manual pump, or aren't able to get one, you should be prepared to do some hand expressing. See tips on best way to do The Marmet Technique for hand expressing at About.com. If you've been pumping in addition to feeding from the breast, or if you're regular feeding pattern with your child may be interrupted due to the storm, you will need to continue to express milk at the same quantities and schedule in order to avoid engorgement, which can lead to complications such as plugged ducts and mastitis.

Relactation

Another consideration for breastfeeding moms during emergencies also includes being aware of the possibility of relactation, something that can be triggered in your body naturally by stress, especially in moms who have recently weaned.

This can be frustrating, but depending on the severity of the impact of the storm on your situation, it can be a plus if you're suddenly without access to clean water or hygienic conditions. Breastmilk is still the safest and most effective food you can give your child.

See more helpful information about relactation from La Leche League and more great tips on breastfeeding during an emergency at Kellymom.com and Native Mothering: Breastfeeding During Emergencies.

Please take care and be safe this week.