Practical Advice for Power Outages

He waved merrily and sang “Have a Safe Weekend!”. It was a summer holiday, the weather was great, there was no imminent danger. Though, “Yea”, I thought “If it’s safe, then it’s a nice weekend.”

Ben Franklin said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  Okay, fail is a harsh word. Though really, we do have to think ahead. This past Winter in Maine we had severe storms one after another. Things we’d anticipated happening in several years happened in one weekend. It behooves us to be prepared, especially for power outages.

Here are practical, simple actions to be ready for a power outage. These will support breastfeeding and providing breast milk to your child. Even if there is no emergency, these are useful to know.

When there is not a clean water supply:
Always have hand wipes or sanitizer available… in your bag, your car, at home.
Plan ahead to have a supply of clean water. Know how you will safely boil it.

Discuss a plan with your childcare provider. Can you store some breastmilk in their freezer?  In case your baby is at daycare and it may take you longer to get there, you have some back up. For your daycare providers, and you, I’ve included a handy PDF of storage guidelines.

1. Keep breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the cleanest, safest, healthiest way to feed your baby. In addition, skin to skin contact provides safety and calm for both parent and child.

2. Learn hand expression now. This is the easiest, safest way to express milk. It  requires no electricity or special equipment, only clean bottles, cups or jars to contain the milk. In addition, gentle hand expression helps with milk flow. If you’re separated from your baby, it will be useful to express milk.

It may be helpful to have a manual or a battery operated pump. It’s wise to have an extra charged battery for your pump. If you are using a pump, know that hand expression with pumping yields more milk than only pumping.

3. It’s okay to keep your breast milk in the freezer or refrigerator even when the power goes out. Open the freezer and refrigerator only when you need to so the cool stays in. If frozen breast milk still has crystals in it, even partially thawed, it’s still good.

Human breast milk is not the same as formula or processed foods. The fact is, Human breast milk is a live food with bacteria that actually ‘eats up’ pathogens. There is limited research on human breast milk and what happens if/when it ‘expires’.

Formula may be necessary for some families. Be prepared that in an emergency, such as a flood, the water supply may be contaminated. Use bottled water if the tap water is not safe. Most importantly, boil the water. Then  pour it over the formula powder. Let the bottle cool, then give it to your child. The Centers for Disease Control has a sheet of instructions.

Alternatively, a supply of Ready Made formula (in the cans, not the powder) would be safe because you don’t have to mix it with water. Make sure any formula (Ready-made or powder) has not expired. Sometimes when donations of formula are given, it’s past the expiration date. Discard expired formula and a bottle of formula that your child didn’t finish.

Give yourself credit for planning ahead to avoid more problems. Power outages, floods, storms are stressful times, though you will be more prepared. While it won’t be  ‘nice weekend’, you will be safer.