When a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy hits, millions along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States scurry to stockpile food and emergency supplies for a potential hunker down of days if not weeks. What do parents of babies under a year do? They throw packages of diapers into their shopping carts, piled high with canned foods and batteries. Even cloth diapering families know that no power means no (easy) clean dipes.
But what about baby food — specifically drinkable food? Only 16.3% of 6-month-old babies in the U.S. are exclusively breastfed (according to the 2012 Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Breastfeeding Report Card). That means the large majority of families haul cans of formula from the store shelves to their homes, hoping that what they’ve amassed will be enough to ride out the storm and its aftermath.
Enter the case for supporting mothers to breastfeed as long and as exclusively as possible. Sure, some mamas are dedicated breastfeeders based on a desire to provide the most natural and beneficial food possible for their babies. Most of these parents also embrace all the side benefits of bonding and such. Others are won over by the cost-saving features, with breastfeeding estimated to save in the range of $1,200 to $2,500 over the first year of a baby’s life. But even in times of recession, it’s still the minority of American mothers who are breastfeeding their 12-month-old babies at all – a mere 25.5% as cited in the 2012 CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card.
If you are or anyone you know is still not convinced of the benefits of breastfeeding, consider this: Hurricane Sandy, due to make landfall later today, is predicted to affect 50-60 million people. That includes some 500,000-750,000 babies less than 12 months old.
A storm that packs this punch has the hidden benefit of teaching us many life lessons. Among these is the value of breastfeeding – highlighted so strongly during an emergency situation like this, when the well-being of so many babies may be at stake.
What better than warm breastmilk straight from the source to nourish a baby, especially in the midst of a power-outage? Of course, this isn’t possible for all women, but it is for most. So, if you are on the fence about whether to breastfeed your baby or for how long, consider the incredible peace of mind that it can give you in emergency situations like Hurricane Sandy. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it best: “Breastfeeding is disaster preparedness.” And if you are already a breastfeeding mother, sit back and enjoy nursing your babe as you ride out the storm, either on the East Coast or virtually from your corner of the world. And remember to relax, as stress can mess with the milk letdown.
For anyone storing breastmilk, here is some great advice to help in times like these.
Best wishes to all those in the path of Sandy, regardless of your breastfeeding situation or whether or not your babies are past the breastfeeding years! What lessons are you learning from this storm?