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Wet Nursing Guidance - Emergency Contexts

This question was posted the Infant and young child feeding interventions forum area and has 5 replies.

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Nicki Connell

Emergency Nutrition Advisor, Save the Children

Normal user

19 Jan 2018, 10:55

I am looking for existing guidance on wet nursing, ideally in the context of emergencies but also for non-emergency settings that could be adapted. Does anyone know of any references they can share? This is a question that has come up in the Rohingya response in Bangladesh.


Normal user

19 Jan 2018, 11:45

Hi Nicki,
Not sure if this is helpful. New guidance on milk sharing by Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

Victoria Sibson

PhD student/nutrition consultant

Normal user

19 Jan 2018, 15:13

Hi Nicki, I don't know of any guidance per se, but your question jogged a memory of mine from the Cyclone Nargis response in Myanmar in 2008. In rural Myanmar we could find women willing to wet nurse the (very small number of) maternally orphaned babies, but in reality not a single baby could be wet nursed 'in full' because the wet nurse simply had other things to do (e.g. water to collect, food to prepare, her own children to care for etc etc) and places to be (e.g. in her own home at night). If I recall correctly, the babies were not handed over to the wet nurse for full time care, as would probably be the only way to make it work, because it was not deemed acceptable by the bereaved father or extended family, and/or the husband of the wet nurse. Something to consider in your planning ... Best of luck

Bindi Borg

Normal user

6 Nov 2020, 10:01

Hi.  I'm opening this question again.  Has any new guidance or materials (education, counselling, training) been developed?  Also, is it possible to get the full ABM statement (it's pay for access via the link)?  Many thanks.

Yara Sfeir

Normal user

5 Oct 2022, 10:30

Hi Nicki, 

I just saw this question now as this thread was quoted in the article that colleagues from Save the Children wrote in the Journal of Human Lactation:

Burrell A, Kueter AM, Ariful S, Rahaman H, Iellamo A, Mothabbir G. Appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices in an Emergency for Non-Breastfed Infants Under Six Months: The Rohingya Experience. J Hum Lact. 2020 Aug;36(3):510-518. doi: 10.1177/0890334420906838. Epub 2020 Mar 13. PMID: 32167844.

The lack of practical guidance for relactation and wetnursing in emergency contexts is highlighted in that aforementionned article. 

I am sharing here a couple of pages I wrote on the subject in 2008 when I was working as a nutritioinist in the camps with UNHCR: 

Sfeir, Y. (2008). Wet nursing for refugee orphans in Bangladesh. Field Exchange, 32, 25.

My answer to your question is late, looking at the date you asked this; I thought to write in case others might bump into this page and need more info. 


Isabelle Modigell

Independent IYCF-E Consultant

Frequent user

21 Mar 2023, 17:21

Reviving this question as part of the desk review being conducted to inform global Operational Guidance for emergency responders on supporting Wet Nursing in Emergencies (under development by UNICEF). Would be great to see any guidance, tools, training materials and other relevant resources shared there. Thank you! 

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