Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Emergency Childbirth in a Disaster Situation

Disasters happen. You've seen them, heard of them, and maybe even experienced them in recent years. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, financial crisis, and the threat of pandemic illnesses are here in our society. As a mama or mama-to-be you may worry for your children…

…and as a woman in her childbearing years it's especially important for you to plan. You need to be able to take care of the baby you are pregnant with, or your infant and young child, in an emergency situation.

Tip 1: Understand Your Fertility

First, make sure you understand enough of your own fertility signs so you can make the right choices for your family during a disaster situation.  What you decide is up to you – but choosing to prevent or choosing to be open to a baby regardless of the situation both present the opportunity for fertility awareness. Staying well-fed and actively working to lower stress are beneficial should you conceive.  If you choose to prevent, waiting to try to conceive for a few months after disaster can allow your body to recover from the stress and possible nutrient depletion.

For basics on fertility, check out these articles on sister site Making Sense of Your Menstrual Cycle and Fertility Basics. My favorite book on cycles and ferility (including information on preventing pregnancy and getting pregnant) is Taking Charge of Your Fertility – I feel every woman should have it on her bookshelf!  A sustainable way to handle your period during disaster is with a menstrual cup (I've used one for years and would never go back!).

Tip 2: Get Enough to Eat

The cornerstone to being prepared for a disaster or emergency is having enough supplies to “go it on your own” for several days, if not a few weeks. Have food stored. Rotate through your foods. Store foods you already eat – canned meats and beans, canned produce. Store water.

If you are pregnant or could become pregnant, I highly recommend you store extra food for yourself – especially protein foods. Store extra canned meat, fish, peanut butter, and beans.  Also store canned and/or jarred fruits (orange slices are a good idea).  Dry beans keep for a long time. Protein is vital to your growing baby. Store extra water for yourself.

The above applies to you if you are nursing. Be especially sure to store extra water! If your baby is old enough for solids either store extra baby food (if you use it) or extra canned goods your baby can eat (plain canned beans and meats can usually be mashed for baby).

If you must formula feed your baby, store extra formula. Be sure your rotate your formula supply. If you have to evacuate your home in a disaster situation take this formula with you.

If you're a breastfeeding mother and given formula during an emergency, drink the formula yourself or pass it to a formula feeding mother. Keep nursing your baby often to keep your milk supply up. A drop in milk supply is normal in stressful situations. Keep nursing often, eat the food and water you've stored, and your supply will rebuild.

Tip 3: Get Educated on Childbirth

If you're pregnant or could become pregnant it's a good idea to have a good book on pregnancy and a good book on birth. Keep Spiritual Midwifery on your bookshelf. You click below to download a copy of Emergency Childbirth (to buy a hard copy of Emergency Childbirth click here). Keep a good solid baby care book on hand too.

(NOTE: Want Emergency Childbirth and easy-to-reference printables to have on hand during natural disasters, pandemic, or the unexpected? Click here.)

Handle Labor Pain

If labor begins during a disaster situation remember to relax! You can birth your baby. Add clean, packed (brown paper bags work well) towels in with your emergency supplies, and yet more extra water. Wrap your baby up skin-to-skin with you under the towels and couple of blankets and nurse your baby after the birth. Don't cut the cord and do wait on the placenta, don't pull at it.

MamaBaby Birthing – my online childbirth class – has a “crash course” you can go through in 1-2 days if you need it <3

Tip 4: Breastfeed

Remember breastfeeding is best for your baby in disaster situations – even during a pandemic! You can even nourish older children with breastmilk in an emergency. Prepare yourself and your family now!

Please feel free to share the link to this page with more mamas and their families!

Read Christine's story to see how nursing saved her baby in a disaster situation!

The National Perinatal Association recommends you continue breastfeeding during most pandemics. Click here for more from the association.

Tip 5: Keep Your Baby With You

While you may hear that your baby should be isolated from you during a pandemic or other disaster situation, the opposite is almost always true. Your breastmilk adapts to any pathogen you're exposed to help your baby stay protected – it's a living “medicine” for your baby!

In addition, disaster situations put an emotional toll on the whole family, and your baby can feel that. Babies raise oxytocin levels in mamas (and other family members), helping to lower your stress. And cuddles and words of affirmation help you to lower stress in your baby.

Remember, stress is inevitable, but you model – even “program” – your baby for healthy stress responses by what you do! Spend extra time relaxing and cuddling skin-to-skin!

Scientific studies almost always find the same results as they have for the 2020 coronavirus – transmission from mother to baby is low and the benefits of keeping your baby with you far outweigh any risk.

Disaster situations are incredibly stressful. Hold your children close, rely on your faith background, eat well, and know that this, too, shall pass <3

MamaBaby Birthing – my online childbirth class – has a “crash course” you can go through in 1-2 days if you need it <3

Further Information:

Read the Natural Birth and Breastfeeding pages to learn more about birthing and nursing naturally.

An huge listing of governmental emergency organizations – look up one in your country for a good starting point on preparing your family (opens in a new tab).

(NOTE: Want Emergency Childbirth and easy-to-reference printables to have on hand during natural disasters, pandemic, or the unexpected? Click here.)

Handle Labor Pain

11 Mom-Tested Techniques to Handle Labor Pain... Naturally