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close this bookInfant Feeding in Emergencies: A Guide for Mothers (WHO, 1997, 48 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentWhy is breastfeeding so important?
View the documentAre commercially-made baby milks as good as breastfeeding?
View the documentWhy are commercially-made baby milks not so good?
View the documentBut can every woman breastfeed?
View the documentBut why don't the experts tell us this if breastfeeding is so important?
View the documentDo babies also need tea and water?
View the documentWhen do babies need more than just breast-milk?
View the documentSo a sick baby should go on breastfeeding?
View the documentDo breastfed babies get fewer diseases?
View the documentBut my friend's baby got ill and he was breastfed
View the documentSo breastfeeding is like a medicine?
View the documentPeople say that stress stops the milk, so during stressful times how can we breastfeed?
View the documentWhat about women who have lost a lot of weight? Can they produce milk?
View the documentDo we need special nutrition for breastfeeding?
View the documentBut what about anaemic women? Does breastfeeding drain their strength?
View the documentSomeone told me breastfeeding stopped you getting pregnant, but isn't that just a story?
View the documentHow does breastfeeding work?
View the documentWhat about women with small breasts or flat nipples?
View the documentYou said the baby has a part too. What can he do?
View the documentWhy is the baby's suckling-action important?
View the documentHow does a baby stimulate the milk?
View the documentThe first principle of breastfeeding: good attachment
View the documentWhy does good attachment not always come naturally to the baby?
View the documentWhy does the baby not always get this right?
View the documentSometimes it is hard to get a baby close because he is swaddled and his clothing gets in the way
View the documentEven if my baby attaches well, how can I be sure there will be enough milk?
View the documentYou said earlier that milk changes during a feed. Can you explain that?
View the documentBut I thought you must feed from both breasts?
View the documentYou said earlier that confidence was important but not everyone has that. What can we do?
View the documentI know women with breastfeeding problems. Can they be helped?
View the documentMy mother told me that you always get sore nipples and you just have to put up with them
View the documentWhat about special creams for sore nipples? How can we get them during an emergency?
View the documentWith this baby-led feeding how can I be hygienic and wash my nipples?
View the documentSo if I get my baby well-attached, I will never get sore nipples?
View the documentYou say breastfeeding should not hurt, but what about the engorgement that every woman gets a few days after the birth?
View the documentYou mentioned blocked ducts, mastitis and abscess. Are they common and how can we treat them?
View the documentAll these problems make breastfeeding look too difficult
View the documentYou said earlier that you can breastfeed even if you have stopped completely. How can this be done?
View the documentFood supplies can be precarious. How can we feed the babies over 6 months who need more than breast-milk alone?
View the documentWhat about premature or very small babies?
View the documentI can see the reason for expressing milk for sick or premature babies, but must all women learn to express?
View the documentHow do I express milk?
View the documentI can see that breastfeeding is possible in most cases, but we still have to face the times when it is not possible: emergencies create orphans, abandoned babies and severely ill or wounded mothers
View the documentIs it possible to feed a baby artificially without a bottle?
View the documentHow do you cup-feed a baby?
View the documentA final word

People say that stress stops the milk, so during stressful times how can we breastfeed?

In societies where women never doubt their ability to breastfeed, mothers have suckled their babies for centuries during famines and wars and saved their lives. In societies where bottle-feeding has become common and confidence in breastfeeding has declined, women have breastfed even less during emergencies. Aid workers did not realize that when they distributed commercial milks and bottles, they were destroying women's confidence, stopping their babies stimulating their breast-milk production and increasing the risk of illness.

If you understand how women's bodies work, despite the stress, you can help yourself and others to cope with a difficult situation. Stress has no effect on the milk-making hormone (prolactin), but it can have a temporary effect on the hormone which makes the milk flow out of the breast (oxytocin). The temporary stoppage of this reflex is a useful biological mechanism to stop milk being ejected from the breast at difficult moments.

Stress has always been part of life and if it destroyed breastfeeding, the human race would never have evolved. When an early human mother and her baby were escaping from a wild animal, it would help for the milk flow to stop while she was running away. But as soon as she reached shelter, the flow would re-start through putting her baby to the breast.

We know the signs of fear: a dry mouth, increased heart beat, cold feet and trembling. These signs slow down after a while, even when the cause of the fear continues. It is the same with the oxytocin reflex: the milk flow may stop for a short time when you are very shocked, but even though the cause of the shock remains, the flow of breast-milk will resume as long as you keep putting your baby to your breast.

The milk-making system is very robust. The oxytocin reflex is sensitive: it can stop temporarily, but it resumes quickly. We all need comfort during stressful times. Ask someone to give you a gentle back massage. This can help your oxytocin reflex, together with the baby suckling freely, to stimulate the breast-milk to start flowing again.

Breastfeeding, with skin-to-skin contact, helps you feel closer. This can help your baby feel secure and limit the damage of the emotional traumas of stressful situations. The breastfeeding hormones help many women feel calmer in stressful situations.

Show this booklet to the health professionals or anyone who is trying to help you. The most important point for health professionals, aid workers, family or friends to remember is that a few minutes of comfort and reassurance can get breast-milk flowing and protect a baby's health and life. Distributing bottles and artificial milk can cause illness and death.