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In Emergencies, Mothers’ Milk Is Best

GRAPHIC: The West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance says in emergencies, the best food source for a nursing infant is its mother. Courtesy WVBA.
GRAPHIC: The West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance says in emergencies, the best food source for a nursing infant is its mother. Courtesy WVBA.
July 29, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Turns out there's another reason babies need their mothers in an emergency. A year ago, extreme weather left some West Virginia mothers without refrigeration or clean water for their babies' formula. However, those who breastfed did not have to worry about giving their child contaminated water. Experts say mothers carry the best "milk storage" with them every day.

Christine Compton, program manager, West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance, said mothers' milk is the best option for an infant at any time - but especially when things go wrong.

"It's clean. Since it's straight from the mom, it doesn't have to be sterilized; you don't have to have a feeding source. You don't have to worry about temperature. And it's always great to reduce stress, if the mom and the baby have that time to connect together," Compton said.

The emergencies caused by last year's storms are still present in the memories of many. Because of the state's geography, Compton said, West Virginia has more than its share of emergencies that can leave families cut off. She urged mothers to be ready in case of "flooding and power outages, lack of clean water supplies, snowstorms - bad situations when people are kind of trapped, or stuck in their homes or hollows."

A few years ago, a mother was stranded in the wilderness and saved her two children this way, Compton recalled.

"The mother was nursing an 8-month-old. She also nursed the toddler, because that was the only food source - they ran out of crackers and snacks after a couple of days. So, the mom and the two children lived - they ended up being rescued," she said.

Breast milk has the best nutrients for a baby, Compton stressed, making any additional supplements like water, formula or juice unnecessary. According to medical experts, almost all infant deaths in emergencies result from diarrhea due to problems such as contaminated water.

August is national breastfeeding month.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV