August is National Breastfeeding Month, a time dedicated to celebrate and share information on the importance of breastfeeding. In Houston, August also unfortunately marks the beginning of hurricane season. If you’re a breastfeeding momma, we know there are special concerns that come along with this time of year. How can you prepare? What should you do in the event of a power outage or evacuation? We want to keep our babies safe and healthy, and we definitely don’t want to lose those freezers full of liquid gold!
Here at Houston Moms, we want you to feel supported and prepared for anything that may come our way. We spoke with Kelly Trautmann BSN, RNC-LRN, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) from The Woman’s Hospital of Texas about breastfeeding during hurricane season. She’s been a nurse for 38 years and has spent the last 35 years as a NICU nurse. She enjoyed breastfeeding all four of her children and loves working with her patients to help them on their own breastfeeding journeys. She says, “No matter the time or place, you’ve got this!”
Here are her guidelines for breastfeeding during hurricane season in Houston:
Start Preparing Now
Take time to make an evacuation plan and think through the items you’ll need for evacuating with frozen breastmilk, options for pumping in the event of a power outage, and options for formula if breastfeeding isn’t an option. It’s never too early to start preparing. The more prepared you are in the beginning, the calmer you’ll be in the event of an evacuation or power outage.
If you don’t breastfeed or if you need to supplement your milk supply, be sure to have a supply of single-serve, ready-to-feed formula that doesn’t require mixing. And don’t forget the hand sanitizer just in case you don’t have access to clean water.
If have a breast pump, make sure it is charged if a storm is approaching. If you can find a battery powered or hand pump, pack that with your supplies along with extra batteries. If you don’t have a pump, you can try expressing your milk by hand.
If you notice a decrease in your milk supply due to stress, Kelly advises you to keep going! Breastmilk not only provides important antibodies to keep your baby safe, it also releases hormones to relieve stress and anxiety for both you and your baby! The act of suckling actually helps release hormones in your baby’s body which can help calm them if they are overwhelmed or fussy. Pretty amazing!
Along with the hormonal and stress relief benefit that breastfeeding can provide, continuing to breastfeed whenever your baby seems hungry will help maintain your supply. That skin to skin contact you get is also a great way to relieve stress.
Keep Your Breastmilk Safe
If you need to evacuate, make sure to have a well-insulated cooler for storing your frozen breastmilk. Keep the breastmilk surrounded by other frozen items or ice. Newspaper can also be used to fill empty space in your cooler along with ice. Keep the cooler closed as much as possible. If you’re at home and the power goes out, place the breastmilk in the center of your freezer and place other frozen foods or ice around the breastmilk. Fill your freezer as much as possible to keep it frozen for as long as possible. Refrain from opening the freezer door more than necessary in order to preserve the cold air.
Kelly also has advice for knowing if your breastmilk is still good after a power outage. Even if your breastmilk begins to thaw, it may still be useable! Check to see if it still has ice crystals. If there are any ice crystals in the breastmilk, it’s still safe to be used and can even be refrozen. If it’s fully thawed it must be used within 24 hours.
While breastfeeding can be both rewarding and challenging even when there’s no approaching storm, preparedness helps to put you and your baby on the path to success!
We so appreciate all of Kelly’s advice and the support of The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. They are a Texas Ten Step designated hospital, meaning they have policies and care practices in place including breastfeeding education and support. Their patient education department offers various breastfeeding courses and they even have a virtual lactation support group! In addition to their trained nursing staff and breastfeeding educators, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are available to assist you with breastfeeding concerns during your hospital stay. Check out The Woman’s Hospital of Texas for more support on your breastfeeding journey.