Feeding children under 2 years in emergency situations

What to do in an emergency with a child in your arms, how to organize feeding and secure the baby?

13 March 2022

Thousands of families with children are now in a state of uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine and are forced to leave their homes. What to do if you are in an emergency situation with a child, how to organize feeding and keep the baby safe?

The first thing to remember is that breastfed babies should continue to receive breast milk. Stressful situations do not affect milk production. Milk quality does not change due to anxiety, panic or stress. Only in rare cases, the ability to lactate can be temporary affected, stress and danger can slow down the flow of milk. Continuing to breastfeed as often as possible will increase this flow.

Frequent breastfeeding ensures the production of the required amount of breast milk.

Do not start giving your baby a pacifier, bottle or formula if you have not done this before.

Why is breastfeeding so important?

First, physical contact that occurs during feeding calms the baby and helps it to feel safe. Hormones produced during breastfeeding also enhance the mother's sense of peace and security.

Secondly, breast milk strengthens the child's immunity, which can now be weakened due to anxiety and stress. Remember that even mothers whose diet is unbalanced or limited can still perform effective and normal breastfeeding.

Third, breastfeeding is the most convenient and safest way to feed your baby, because you can do it anywhere, you don't need utensils, you don't need to wash, boil or sterilize anything.

What to do if you can't continue breastfeeding?

First, you need to understand the reason.

If breastfeeding is not possible because the baby cannot suck or he\she is not near the mother, it is possible to maintain breastfeeding. To do this, if possible, pump or hand express milk, according to the usual number of feedings. Abrupt interruption of breastfeeding can cause complications - hardening, inflammation of the breasts and more.


What to remember:

  • pump     or hand express milk as often as the child would eat, but at least 8 times a day;
  • wash your hands with soap before milk pumping; 
  • drain the milk into a clean container;
  • feed this milk to the child in a favorable way to be able to continue     breastfeeding.


Drained milk can be fed to a baby who is not with its mother in a favorable way for breastfeeding, such as a spoon and a cup, but not from a bottle with a teat.

If breastfeeding is not possible due to insufficient milk, first, try to renew the usual production of breast milk (frequently give your baby  to suck your breast even if there is no milk, drink plenty of water, do a neck massage, try to get enough rest, take a warm shower if possible, try to eat well, eat something sweet/ a favorite food).

If you can not resume lactation, for children from 0 to 6 months, you can use the liquid ready to use formula or dry formula. Preference should be given to the liquid mixture, because it is ready for use and, accordingly, packaged directly by the manufacturer and is the safest for the child.

Dry formula is not sterile, can be contaminated and requires careful preparation, as well as additional resources, for example, clean boiled water, clean cooking utensils, which are not always available in an emergency.

Use only infant formula suitable for your baby’s age. Do not feed the child younger than 6 months animal milk, water or formula for older children.

Do not use feeding bottles, as they are difficult to wash while traveling. In addition, if you plan to try to resume lactation, you should not give your baby a pacifier or a bottle with a teat. It is better to use a cup or feed the baby with a spoon.

Before preparing dry formula, use boiled water at a temperature above 70 degrees Celsius in order to kill bacteria that may be present in the water or dry powder. Do not prepare formula in advance. If there is no other option, the formula should be refrigerated after cooking. Then the bottle with the mixture can be stored in a refrigerator bag with an ice pack for a maximum 4 hours or in a bag for a maximum 2 hours.

Children older than 6 months can be fed with boiled or pasteurized animal (cow's or goat's) milk, as well as complementary foods. Such babies do not need a formula.

If none of the options are available, please contact the nearest maternity hospital, children's hospital and ask for help.

Share this information with families with children under 2 years old and send them a link to the brochure (link to the brochure) with recommendations on how to act in an emergency.