Feeding Your Child Safely During a Disaster

At a glance

Natural disasters can make it hard for parents and caregivers to feed their infants and young children safely. These tips provide information for feeding your young child during an emergency.

Mother breastfeeding her infant and comforting her older child during an emergency.


Breastfeeding remains the best infant feeding option for most infants, even in a natural disaster. Breast milk helps protect babies from diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory infections and provides the calories and nutrients babies need. This protection is especially important during natural disasters when contaminated water and unsanitary environments can increase the risk of disease. A natural disaster may be a hurricane, flood, wildfire, earthquake, or tornado.

Before a disaster happens, breastfeeding mothers can make a plan and be prepared.

Wash your hands before feeding your infant. If soap and safe water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Learn how to express breast milk by hand. If there is a power outage, you may not be able to use your electric breast pump.

Continue breastfeeding in emergencies. During and after a disaster, stay with your child. Staying together makes it much easier to continue breastfeeding.

Food Assistance and Food System Resources ‎

For resources and tools to help households in need find food, see Food Assistance and Food System Resources.

Formula feeding

Wash your hands before preparing formula and before feeding your infant. If soap and safe water are not available for handwashing, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

If you formula feed your child, provide ready-to-use infant formula if available. Ready-to-use infant formula is a type of infant formula that is packaged as ready-to-feed liquid and does not need to be reconstituted with water. If ready-to-use infant formula is not available, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered formula or concentrated formula when tap water is unsafe.

Learn how to prepare and store powdered infant formula during an emergency. If bottled water is not available, boil water for 1 minute and let it cool before mixing with formula. Only use treated water to prepare formula if bottled or boiled water is unavailable. Always check with local authorities on the status of the drinking water and follow boil water advisories.

If your baby is younger than 2 months old, was born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system, consider taking extra precautions to prevent Cronobacter infections.

Breastfeeding and formula feeding

If you already combine breastfeeding and formula feeding, during an emergency you may wish to breastfeed more often to increase your breast milk supply and reduce reliance on formula.

Always clean infant feeding items with bottled, boiled, or treated water and soap before each use. If you cannot clean infant feeding supplies safely, children can lap up milk from a disposable cup, if available. Throw out bottle nipples or pacifiers that have been in contact with floodwater.

CDC's Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Toolkit‎

This toolkit helps emergency preparedness and response personnel, families, and the public ensure that children are fed safely when disaster strikes. Learn more.