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Breastfeeding in aftermath of disasters in USA.

In the aftermath of one of the nation's worst natural disasters, the devastation caused by Hurricane Rita in the southern states of the USA, the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), an organisation of more than 40 national health care, professional and government organisations, has issued a call to support breastfeeding mothers in their decision to give their infant the healthiest start in life.

Dr. Audrey Naylor, chair of the USBC, says that breastfeeding is the most important way to protect infants from a host of significant health concerns, and is especially critical in emergency situations where safe and sanitary water is not available, transportation is limited and disease abounds.

'Research is clear,' says Dr. Naylor, 'that even in the best of situations, breastfeeding helps protect infants from illnesses such as ear infections, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. In emergency situations, the safety net that breastfeeding provides for babies, who are the most vulnerable in a crisis, is profound.'

The USBC urges all mothers who are currently breastfeeding to continue for as long as possible to protect their infants from infection and disease, and encourages pregnant women to breastfeed once their infant is born. The USBC further encourages health care and emergency relief workers to assist women to continue breastfeeding their infants.

Appropriate assistance can include measures as simple as providing a 'safe haven' or private area for women to breastfeed and receive counselling in large shelter environments, and helping women access the support of lactation consultants and other breastfeeding experts in the community. Both the International Lactation Consultant Association and La Leche League International provide knowledgeable support personnel.

In addition, the USBC has published an issue paper, 'Benefits of Breastfeeding,' available on its website. The paper provides documented evidence of the importance of breastfeeding to the health of both infants and mothers.

For more information about infant and young child feeding in emergencies. contact the USBC: T: + 1 202 367 1132; E: W:

Other useful sources are the International Lactation Consultant Association ( and La Leche League International (
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Title Annotation:Worldwide news
Publication:International Midwifery
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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