Health and Family Services Cabinet
Public Health Encourages Breastfeeding Support during Disasters or Emergencies
Aug. 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week
In honor of the 2009 World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is stressing the importance of providing support for mothers who breastfeed their infants during disasters or emergencies. In acknowledgment of the importance of breastfeeding, Kentucky celebrates the month of August as World Breastfeeding Month.
This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response: Are You Ready?” advocates for active protection and support of breastfeeding before and during emergencies. The theme was selected to bring breastfeeding to the forefront for Kentucky communities and include breastfeeding support in their disaster preparedness plans.
“Infants and children are among the most vulnerable victims of natural or manmade emergencies,” said DPH Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. “Breast milk is a safe and secure source of food for babies. It’s instantly available and provides active protection against illness."
Many people may not be prepared for the loss of water, gas or electrical services. However, public health officials learned during this year’s ice storm that Kentuckians faced numerous challenges and threats to well-being, such as closed schools and retail sites, when power was wiped out for weeks at a time.
In addition to the everyday benefits of breastfeeding, such as reduced risk of certain illnesses for both baby and mother, public health officials throughout August are working to educate Kentuckians about the importance of breastfeeding during emergencies and disasters.
“During a disaster or an emergency when these services are interrupted for extended periods of time, breastfeeding becomes the most convenient and safe way to feed a baby,” said Fran Hawkins, director of the Kentucky WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. “Breast milk is always clean, safe and the perfect temperature. It is also full of antibodies that help protect this vulnerable population from infection and disease.”
Emergency preparedness is vital. During emergencies, mothers need active support to continue or re-establish lactation. According to DPH, by supporting breastfeeding in nonemergency settings, mothers will have the confidence, knowledge and support necessary to continue feeding their baby during the disaster.
For more information, contact your local health department.