Scientist Caution Mothers against Ceasing Breastfeeding During Emergencies

In Education

The ongoing bushfires in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania highlight the imminent fire risks for Australian families this summer. While infants may not comprehend emergencies like floods, bushfires, or cyclones, they and their mothers are still affected by them.

Disasters affect breastfeeding routine

During natural disasters, breastfeeding becomes crucial as it offers infants safe nourishment, hydration, and protection against infections. Additionally, it provides comfort and security. However, mothers often face challenges in breastfeeding during emergencies, attributing stress to decreased milk supply. Consequently, some unintentionally cease breastfeeding during these critical times, which is inadvisable.

Stress doesn’t diminish milk supply, and despite added challenges, mothers can breastfeed during emergencies, even in the most difficult situations. In pregnancy, hormones form milk-producing structures in women’s breasts, which continue to produce milk after birth to feed the baby. However, with time, they transition to a demand and supply system.

The act of breastfeeding involves a feedback mechanism where milk production is stimulated by the removal of milk from the breasts. The more frequently this milk removal occurs, the more milk the breasts produce. This process is facilitated by the hormone oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone.” When a baby suckles, oxytocin signals the contraction of muscle-like cells around the milk-producing structures, pushing the milk towards the nipple for the baby to consume.

Stress has no direct effect on mother’s milk production

Stress does not directly affect the milk production process. However, mothers often worry that emergencies are reducing their milk supply due to changes in their baby’s behavior. Babies tend to be more unsettled, seek more attention, feed more frequently, and may be fussy during emergencies, which is a normal response to the disruption. While stress itself doesn’t impact milk supply, it can temporarily slow down oxytocin release, leading to a slower milk flow during feeding.

In emergencies such as bushfires and floods, parents of infants face unique challenges. Breastfeeding mothers may miss baby cues or delay breastfeeding due to the chaos and lack of privacy, potentially reducing milk supply. Dehydration, caused by limited access to water or concerns about toilets, can further impact milk production.

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