How to care for your baby during a natural disaster

This hurricane season may have you brainstorming ideas about caring for your family during a natural disaster. If you’re the parent of an infant, you have a lot to consider in the face of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, snowstorms, or other natural events that could push you out of your home.

Take steps in advance to maintain your baby’s safety during a natural disaster.

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Have an Emergency Kit

Bottled water, flashlights, batteries, food, and a first-aid kit are all important to have on hand, but your emergency kit should also support baby safety during a natural disaster by containing:

  • Clothes
  • Diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
  • Clean bottles and formula or a hand pump if you breastfeed
  • Toys, blankets, and pacifiers
  • Snacks
  • Thermometer, pain reliever, any medicines your child needs, and a copy of all vaccination records.
  • Portable crib or baby carrier

You can use chlorine or iodine tablets for treating water, but don’t use treated water to make formula. Ready-to-feed formula is the most convenient in an emergency. You may want to also bring a carry wrap or carry sling for easily transporting your baby if you have to travel.

RELATED: How to Stock a First Aid Kit

Know Your Evacuation Plan

Your first instinct may be to stay home, but it’s best to follow evacuation orders for your area. If you stay during an evacuation, rescue crews may not be able to reach you in an emergency. If you need to leave your home, establish a plan that includes a “who, what, where, when, and how.” Who is coming with you? What are you bringing? Where are you staying? When are you leaving? How are you getting there? Share your plan with family and friends.

RELATED: Staying Safe During a Flood: Essential Tips for Families

Stay with family or friends outside the evacuation zone, or reach out to local shelters. Make sure you have plenty of gas if you’re driving or, if you’re taking public transportation, take into account that some services may be shut down. Your plan should include the amount of time you’ll spend packing, and what you’ll bring. You probably won’t be able to bring more than one small bag.

What if You’re Separated?

Caring for a baby during a natural disaster is scary enough, but sometimes a disaster can happen so quickly that you’re unable to reach your child. Make sure your emergency contacts are always updated in case someone else needs to pick up your child before you can.

You should also know the school’s or childcare center’s emergency plan, what protocols will be followed for natural disasters, and where your child will be taken in the event of an emergency. You should also equip your child with some sort of identification and your complete contact information so officials or staff can readily reach you.

During and After the Emergency

Floodwaters present a major challenge to health. With babies putting things in their mouths or possibly trying to drink unsafe water, you must watch your child at all times. Keep young children away from damaged homes with mold, exposed wiring, or chemicals. Contact your pediatrician or head to an emergency room if you think your child has ingested something harmful.

Once the worst has passed, your child may still be emotionally sensitive and trying to cope with what happened. He or she may cry more or have trouble sleeping. Be patient and ready to comfort your child until this stage passes.

It’s hard to imagine how to react if a disaster hits your area, but taking a few moments to set up a plan and pack an emergency bag can make it easier to react if necessary. Caring for your family during a natural disaster is a matter of preparation.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.