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WIC Nutrition Infant Feeding in Disasters

Mother's Milk is the Safest Food for Infants During Emergencies

  • Infants and children are among the most vulnerable victims of natural or human-induced emergencies.
  • Interrupted breastfeeding and inappropriate complementary feeding heighten the risk for malnutrition, illness, and death.
  • Uncontrolled distribution of breastmilk substitutes can lead to early and unnecessary cessation of breastfeeding.
  • For the vast majority of infants, emphasis should be on protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding and ensuring timely, safe, and appropriate complementary feeding.
  • There will always be a small number of infants who have to be fed on breastmilk substitutes. Suitable substitutes, procured, distributed, and fed safely as part of the regular inventory of foods and medicines, should be provided.

Excerpt from the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, World Health Organization, 2003, page 11. 


Immediate Actions Needed to Support Infants and Young Children in Emergencies

  • Create safe corners. Group pregnant, lactating women, mothers of young children and their families together.
  • Call in support. Lactation consultants should be called in to support new mothers in establishing lactation, to provide currently lactating mothers with accurate information and assistance for continued successful breastfeeding or re-lactation assistance when breastfeeding has been disrupted, and to assess the need for supplementation with breastmilk substitutes.

    To find qualified breastfeeding counselors who are willing to donate their services during times of disaster, please visit our online Texas Lactation Support Directory.

  • Control (lock up) donations of breastmilk substitutes. There should be no general distribution of breastmilk substitutes. Any provision of breastmilk substitutes should be based on careful assessment of need.

13-06-12506 - Infant Feeding During Disasters Poster - English (566 kb, PDF)

13-06-12506a - Infant Feeding During Disasters Poster - Spanish  (282 kb, PDF)


Additional Resources

Infant Nutrtition During Disaster (812 kb, PDF)
American Academy of Pediatrics protocol on infant feeding during a disaster. 

Guiding principles for feeding infants and young children during emergencies (4.2 mb, PDF)
World Health Organization's guide to meeting the specific nutritional requirements of infants and young children during emergencies.

Emergency Nutrition Network
Website for the network that provides help to individuals caught up in a nutritional emergency anywhere in the world.

Nutrition Security and Emergencies
UNICEF website on emergencies and nutrition

United States Breastfeeding Committee
Nonprofit coalition of more than 40 nationally influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations, that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.

Food, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Information for Use Before and After a Disaster or Emergency
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for emergency preparedness and response

Resources for Breastfeeding During Emergencies
La Leche League list of helpful information for breastfeeding mothers who experience natural disasters or other emergencies, and for the care providers who support them.

Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergency Situations (172 kb, PDF)

Wellstart International provides guidelines for feeding mothers, infants and children in crisis situations.



Last updated October 13, 2016