The calendar still says February, but the weather in the Queen City has us feeling like spring!  We aren’t complaining about the warm temperature, but according to according to Cincinnati WLWT meteorologist Kevin Robinson “prolonged unseasonably warm weather usually means an early start to severe weather season.”  Severe weather can lead to power outages and now is the time to prepare to safely feed your little one in case of an outage- before you are caught in the dark!

If you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding, you might think this one is a no-brainer, as breast | chest milk most often comes fresh from the source.  But what about parents who are pumping milk for their babies? Or relying on donor milk?

If you’re formula feeding in the United States, many of us take for granted access to clean water.  However in an emergency, clean water might be in short supply and the risk for bacteria growth and infection increases.

What should you know ahead of an emergency:

Preparing safe food and clean water.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests families prepare for a natural disaster by stocking safe food and water.  For families whose children are formula fed, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “ready-to-feed standard formula.  Use concentrated or powdered formula only if bottled or boiled water is available (1)" in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.  Dedicate a storage container to items you need to prepare bottles for your child and create an emergency kit. Include cleaning items such as soap, paper towels, and antiseptic wipes (2). 

Pumping parents can create their own emergency kit with a battery pack, batteries, car adapter, manual breast pump and/or an extra kit of electric breast pump accessories, milk storage containers, and appropriate soap and cleaning items.  It would also be a good idea to practice hand-expression of breastmilk in case there is no access to a clean, working breast pump.

Plan accordingly for enough clean water for all members of your household, taking into consideration water you will need for preparing formula, cleaning food utensils, and personal hygiene.  The CDC recommends you “Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick. Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible). (3)”

Keeping cold things cold.

Losing electricity for a prolonged period of time could lead to a devastating loss of breast | chest milk.  According to the USDA, “A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.”  If you have a generator, use it for your refrigerator or freezer.  Should a generator not be an option, the USDA recommends learning where dry ice and block ice can be purchased locally as “fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days (4).”

What if my frozen breast | chest milk thaws?

The USDA says “food may be safely refrozen if the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.” So if your breast | chest milk has not totally thawed and is still slushy or has ice crystals, it is safe to refreeze.

But what about milk that has completely thawed?  Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee #8 explains that thawed milk should be fed within 24 hours, but “There is little information on refreezing of thawed human milk.  Bacterial growth and loss of antibacterial activity in thawed milk will vary depending on the technique of milk thawing, duration of the thaw, and the amount of bacteria in the milk at the time of expression.  At this time no recommendations can be made on the refreezing of thawed human milk (5).” At this time most health officials do not recommend refreezing milk that has completely thawed.

If you have you been through a power outage or natural disaster while caring for a little one, what tips would you offer to parents preparing for an emergency?

1.  American Academy of Pediatrics. 2015. Infant Feeding In Disasters and Emergencies Breastfeeding and Other Options.

2.  Gribble, K., Berry, N. 2011. Emergency preparedness for those who care for infants in developed country contexts.

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 4 August 2014. Food and Water Needs: Preparing for a Disaster or Emergency.

4.  United States Department of Agriculture. 30 July 2013. Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency.

5.  The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. Breastfeeding Medicine. May 2010, 5(3): 127-130. doi:10.1089/bfm.2010.9988.