Breastfeeding means babies will weather the storm just fine!
If youve just had a baby or are expecting to deliver soon, you might be asking yourself how to prepare for hurricane season with a newborn. What happens if we lose power? How will I cope without a source for clean water? What if the supermarkets are closed for a few days?
The maternity ward at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) wants new parents to know the most effective and easy way to provide nutrition for your infant during any emergency is by breastfeeding. In addition to being the healthiest way to nourish your newborn, breastfeeding plays a very practical role during any crisis and ensures your baby has everything he or she needs even when there are power failures, water shortages or outbreaks of illness.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development, explains Janet Wheelan, Clinical Manager for the Maternal/Child Programme at KEMH. In addition, the World Health Organization says breastfeeding passes on maternal immunities, lowers the risk of respiratory disease and offers protection from influenza. Since the possibility of a powerful hurricane striking our Island is a fact of life for us, choosing to breastfeed also means newborns will weather the storm just fine. Mothers who nurse dont have to worry about sterilising bottles or mixing up formula when there may be no water or power. Another advantage of breastfeeding during times of stress is that it releases hormones which will calm both the mother and baby.
While mothers may face challenges in the early days, Ms Wheelan says with proper information, support and encouragement, women can successfully nurse their babies. Receiving assistance from hospital midwives prior to discharge is a great first step toward getting off to a good start. Mothers can also request assistance from the Department of Healths visiting nurses. In addition, La Leche League, a registered charity, is staffed by accredited and skilled volunteers ready to provide help if mothers are having difficulties.
Not only does a mothers milk provide optimal nutrition for infants during an emergency, it is also cost effective, Ms Wheelan notes. Breastfeeding can make a huge difference to budgets and families can save thousands of dollars a year by not having to purchase formula. And because breastfed babies have lower rates of illness and fewer doctor visits, parents save even more money.
Adrianna Mercier gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the summer of 2003, just a month ahead of Hurricane Fabian. I was very concerned about preparing for hurricanes with a newborn, she explains. I was so grateful I had chosen to breastfeed my baby. We were without power and water for four days but thankfully, caring for our son turned out to be the least of our concerns. I nursed him throughout the storm, which proved to help us both feel more relaxed. Once I realised he had everything he needed, my fears were allayed. Not only did nursing make it easier during the hurricane, I found travelling to be much less stressful. I had no problems when our flight was delayed and once when we were stuck on the tarmac for an hour, I could keep my baby happy just by breastfeeding.
Women are encouraged to ask for help if they are having problems with breastfeeding. With accurate information and a good support network, women can overcome breastfeeding difficulties and be prepared during hurricane season or any other crisis, concludes Ms Wheelan. For breastfeeding assistance, women may contact the Maternity team at 239-1325, LLL at 541-6455 or the Maternal Health and Family Planning Clinic at 278-6475.
Submitted by Bermuda Hospitals Board
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