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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Breastfeeding in Emergencies: Press Release

January 27, 2010



Breastfeeding is the First Line of Defense in a Disaster*

*Washington, DC*--The Human Milk Banking Association of North America

(HMBANA), United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), International

Lactation Consultant Association/United States Lactation Consultant

Association (ILCA/USLCA), and La Leche League International (LLLI) strongly

affirm the importance of breastfeeding in emergency situations, and call on

relief workers and health care providers serving victims of disasters to

protect, promote, and support mothers to breastfeed their babies. During an

emergency, breastfeeding mothers provide their infants with safe food and

water and disease protection that maximize their chances of survival.

This week, the International Milk Bank Project and Quick International

Courier coordinated a shipment of milk from the HMBANA member banks to

supplement a mother's own milk for the premature, medically fragile, and

orphaned infants aboard the U.S. Navy ship *Comfort* stationed off the coast

of Haiti. This milk will help this small group of infants. In this highly

unusual circumstance the infrastructure associated with the *Comfort*'s

resources allows U.S. sourced donor milk to help fragile Haitian babies.

Donor milk, however, is not a solution for the large number of infants and

young children affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Members of the public

who wish to promote the survival of mothers and babies in Haiti can donate

money to the following organizations: UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance,

World Vision, and Action Against Hunger. These organizations are using best

practice to aid both breastfed and non-breastfed infants.
Members of the

public can be confident that donations to these organizations will support

breastfeeding and help save the lives of babies.

Interventions to protect infants include supporting mothers to initiate and

continue exclusive breastfeeding, relactation for mothers who have ceased

breastfeeding, and finding wet nurses for motherless or separated babies.

Every effort should be made to minimize the number of infants and young

children who do not have access to breastfeeding. Artificially fed infants

require intensive support from aid organizations including infant formula,

clean water, soap, a stove, fuel, education, and medical support. This is

not an easy endeavor. Formula feeding is extremely risky in emergency

conditions and artificially fed infants are vulnerable to the biggest

killers of children in emergencies: diarrhea and pneumonia.

As stated by UNICEF and WHO, no donations of infant formula or powdered milk

should be sent to the Haiti emergency.
Such donations are difficult to

manage logistically, actively detract from the aid effort, and put infant's

lives at risk. Distribution of infant formula should only occur in a

strictly controlled manner. Stress does not prevent women from making milk

for their babies, and breastfeeding women should not be given any infant

formula or powdered milk.

There are ongoing needs in the U.S. for human milk for premature and other

extremely ill infants because of the protection it provides from diseases

and infections. If a mother is unable to provide her own milk to her

premature or sick infant, donor human milk is often requested from a human

milk bank. American mothers can help their compatriots who find themselves

in need of breast milk for their sick baby by donating to a milk bank that

is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

For more information about donating milk to a milk bank, contact HMBANA at

Additional information for relief workers and health care professionals can

be provided from the United States Breastfeeding Committee at


or La Leche League International at

A list of regional milk banks is available on the HMBANA Web site at

*USBC is an organization of organizations. Opinions expressed by USBC are

not necessarily the position of all member organizations and opinions

expressed by USBC member organization representatives are not necessarily

the position of USBC. *