Ask you local first responders to review and share the information below, so that your community can recognize Breastfeeding Friendly First Responders!
Review Breastfeeding Laws and Regulations
Breastfeeding in Public
Research the rules for your municipality. *North Carolina law states that “…a woman may breastfeed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.” This means that a breastfeeding parent is not in violation of indecent exposure laws. Click here to read the N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-190.9 (1993).
An older law signed in 1999, Public Law 106-58, refers specifically to breastfeeding on Federal Property: Section 647 states: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.”
The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers are required to provide reasonable break time for employees to express their milk for their nursing children. The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk. These requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees. The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) maintains a helpful information page on workplace support for breastfeeding in federal law.
Research the rules for your local municipality
Any time a parent needs a first responder, it feels like an emergency for that family. Emergencies often occur when least expected, and sometimes when we are least prepared. They can include a wide range of unsettling events, including personal or family crises, public health emergencies (such as a flu pandemic), acts of terror and violence, and natural disasters or weather-related events (such as floods and blizzards). Emergencies can make it hard for parents and caregivers to feed their infants and young children safely. Know the law and follow these tips to keep our children safe when disaster strikes…
We know that breastfeeding, and the lower breastfeeding rates, is a public health issue that has affected certain marginalized communities and certain racial groups more than others. And breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, particularly in emergencies.
Video uploaded from Save the Children USA
Infants and children are the most vulnerable during emergencies
- Nearly 95% of infant and child deaths in emergencies result from diarrhea due to contaminated water and an unsanitary environment.
- Infant formula has been linked to an increase in infant disease and death: it can also be contaminated and requires clean water and fuel to sterilize formula, bottles, and nipples. Lack of electricity also can make it difficult to preserve formula.
- Breastfeeding saves lives! Human milk is always clean, requires no fuel, water, or electricity, and is available, even in the direst circumstances.
- Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection, including diarrhea and respiratory infections common among infants in emergency situations.
- Human milk provides infants with perfect nutrition, including the proper amount of vitamins and minerals required for normal growth.
- Breastfeeding releases hormones that lower stress and anxiety in both babies and parents.
- Parents who breastfeed are able to keep their babies warm to prevent hypothermia.
Parents can breastfeed in an emergency!
- The safest food in an emergency is the parents’s own milk. Donor human milk is the next best option. Parents who cannot directly feed their babies also can be supported to express their milk.
- Parents who are stressed can continue to make milk. A quiet area to help parents relax can help their milk flow to the baby; however, parents can breastfeed even without the support of a quiet space.
- Malnourished parents can make milk.
- Even parents who have already discontinued breastfeeding may be able to restart breastfeeding (known as
- If a baby (or parent) becomes ill, the best thing the parent can do is to continue breastfeeding to provide her baby with human antibodies that fight the illness.
- Support makes the difference!
Breastfeeding Support Checklist
If you are a first responder or an emergency relief worker, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping this Breastfeeding Support Checklist for Relief Workers on hand.
- “Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Breastfeeding“
- “Facts about Breastfeeding in an Emergency – Especially for Health Workers“
Create a Safe Space for Breastfeeding Families
- Keep families together.
- Create safe, private areas for breastfeeding women to nurse their infants.
- Reassure parents that they can and should continue to breastfeed and should offer the breast as much as their infants want.
It’s All About Access
- Ensure that pregnant and lactating women are a priority group for access to food and water.
- Be ready to connect families and caregivers to lactation support providers if they need help.
Cleanliness Is Key
- Make disposable cups available, since bottles and nipples can be hard to clean effectively when there is limited access to clean water.
- If there is clean water, ensure access to items like a washbasin, dish soap, cleaning brushes, and a mesh bag to hang dry infant feeding items.
- Educate families about how to clean infant feeding items.
Things To Avoid
- Avoid providing breast pumps. Without power, parents cannot use an electric breast pump or safely refrigerate their expressed milk. Furthermore, keeping pump parts clean is an additional challenge when the water is unsafe.
- Avoid giving powdered infant formula or other breast milk substitutes. Relief organizations should only provide ready-to-use infant formula to infants who are already formula feeding or have had breastfeeding interrupted in certain situations. Formula should not be provided to breastfeeding infants.
For Healthcare Providers
In addition to your basic emergency preparedness training, explore resources from The Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI).
- Ready.gov provides advice on steps to take to recover from a disaster and begin getting your home, your community, and your life back to normal, including: health and safety guidelines, returning home, seeking disaster assistance, coping with disaster, and helping others.
- The American Red Cross has Recovery Guides on more than 20 types of emergencies.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, year-round crisis counseling and support. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
- Resources for Talking with Parents
- “Infant Feeding in Emergencies“
- “My power went out and I have breastmilk in the freezer – Help!“
- La Leche League International Website: “Infant Feeding In Emergencies (Multilingual)“
- Resources for Talking with Children / Helping Children Cope
- American Academy of Pediatrics: “Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope”
- National Association of School Psychologists: “School Climate, Safety, and Crisis“
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network: “Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019“
- Save the Children: “10 Tips for Helping Children Cope with Disaster”