Media Talking Points
Haiti Emergency and Breastfeeding
▪ Breastfeeding is an infant’s first line of defense in this and any disaster situation.
For the many orphaned, injured, and ill babies in Haiti, direct breastfeeding is the ONLY
Mothers on the ground need support and encouragement to breastfeed their
If a mother has ceased breastfeeding, offer her the opportunity to restart or
If a child is motherless or separated from his mother, other mothers can be asked
to step in to share their milk by breastfeeding the baby
▪ Formula is a recipe for disaster in an emergency situation. The public is
encouraged NOT to send formula donations, which can hamper relief efforts.
▪ Donate funds to relief organizations that can, in turn, acquire supplies as needed
to meet the specific, identified needs on the ground. Among the recommended agencies:
UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children, Action Against Hunger
Donor Milk Issues
▪ A small shipment of human milk left the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio on Wed., Jan. 27 en
route to the U.S. Navy Ship Comfort, stationed in the waters off the coast of Haiti.
▪ This was a highly unusual situation, accommodated due to the infrastructure on the
ship. Medical staff are trained in the use of human milk, and appropriate facilities,
refrigeration, cold chain, storage capacity, and cold chain were available to support the
proper use of the milk, with a safe and secure mechanism for transporting it.
▪ Donor human milk is life‐saving for preterm, sick, and medically fragile infants who may
not be able to feed directly at the breast, providing anti‐infective properties that protect
from illness and disease, and enhancing growth and development.
▪ The initial appeal for donor milk was made earlier this week to help replenish supplies of
milk at the regional milk banks around the country, which were already low following
the holidays. This message was widely received and has resulted in adequate supplies
for the capacities of the milk banks, and for babies on board the naval ship. The urgent
need no longer exists.
▪ The infrastructure on the ground in Haiti can NOT support the use of donor human
milk at this time. Instead, mothers should be supported in breastfeeding (or shared
nursing by other mothers).
Haiti Breastfeeding Rates
▪ Breastfeeding is the norm in Haiti
▪ UNICEF data shows:
87% of babies are breastfeeding at ages 6‐9 months
35% are breastfeeding at ages 20‐23 months
▪ Special concerns in countries like Haiti (even without an emergency of this magnitude)
include lack of transportation, vulnerability to storms and flooding/mudslides, rough
terrain that makes travel difficult, poverty, low education levels, and lack of resources.
Common health issues in Haiti include diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, malaria,
▪ In an emergency, these issues are compounded.
▪ This is why it is SO important to protect breastfeeding in this environment. After the
disaster, when long term recovery is underway, the worst thing to have to deal with is a
breastfeeding culture that suddenly became a formula feeding society during a disaster.
The repercussions on mortality and morbidity could take generations to overcome.
Breastfeeding Saves Lives
▪ It is the perfect food…anti‐infective properties to protect a baby from the germs that
cause diarrhea , pneumonia, and other diseases, that are rampant in a contaminated
environment, PLUS perfect nutrition when food sources are scarce, WATER to maintain
▪ In the perfect delivery system...always available, always clean, constantly replaces
itself, provides warmth, is loving, and allows for the important skin contact that lowers
stress levels for both the baby and the mother
▪ Breastfeeding is one‐stop shopping for the baby and requires nothing else but a
Problems with Infant Formula Use in an Emergency
▪ Formula feeding , which has no anti‐infective properties, has been linked to significant
increases in infant deaths in a disaster
Example: 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. 72% of families in this breastfeeding
culture were given formula; and the occurrence of diarrhea was 3 times higher
among formula fed infants.
▪ Formula requires clean water (which is often unavailable or contaminated in an
emergency), fuel to boil water so it can be sterilized, sanitary feeding utensils, soap and
a stove/fuel to clean feeding utensils after use, storage space that is clean and dry,
refrigeration, electricity, staff and maternal education in the proper use of formula, and
medical support since babies are sicker when they are not breastfed.
▪ Formula feeding requires intensive support from aid agencies, diverting them from their
most important tasks of providing relief.
▪ Unsolicited donations become a logistical nightmare for aid agencies.
▪ UNICEF, World Health Organization, and World Food Programme have stated that
donations of formula and human milk to the ground in Haiti are not appropriate and
cannot be used at present.
▪ Human Milk Banking Association of North America – Pauline Sakamoto
Website: www.hmbana.org / Pauline email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pauline office: 408‐885‐3959
▪ United States Breastfeeding Committee – Joan Meek, Cathy Carothers
Cathy: email@example.com / 662‐332‐0887 or 662‐931‐6368
▪ International Lactation Consultant Association – Cathy Carothers
Website: www.ilca.org [Find a Lactation Consultant Directory]
Cathy (see above)