Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies

Protecting and promoting safe and appropriate infant and young child feeding practices in emergencies (IYCF-E) is essential for both the prevention and treatment of malnutrition. In an emergency context, stress, lack of food, limited privacy and uncontrolled distribution of breast milk substitutes are among the challenges that can undermine infant feeding practices. Because the interruption of breastfeeding can lead to the rapid deterioration of an infant’s health, adequate and professional support to overcome feeding challenges and promote safe and appropriate practices should be provided to address these challenges.

World Vision’s Milk Policy ensures that the use of milk products in field programmes does not undermine safe and appropriate infant and young child feeding practices. Field programming also includes counselling and nutrition education to address common challenges to infant feeding. This counselling often occurs in Women and Infant Friendly Spaces, dedicated spaces for women to go to in emergency settings for privacy to breastfeed and support to overcome infant feeding challenges. 

Do you know the truth about some common myths surrounding breastfeeding in emergencies?

Check out these Key Breastfeeding Facts.

In fragile contexts or emergency settings, World Vision sets up Women, Adolescent and Young Child-friendly Spaces, also known as Breastfeeding or Baby-friendly tents/corners. These are safe, low-stress spaces where mothers can breastfeed, rest, eat and receive skilled counselling and targeted advice about breasfeeding and nutrition. Here are some examples of World Vision's WAYCS:

World Vision has developed guidance on using baby-friendly spaces or tents to protect and promote breastfeeding in challenging emergency situations, as well as Guidance on Women, Adolescent and Young Child Spaces (WAYCS)

Learn about other ways World Vision supports breastfeeding.  


Module 1 Orientation on infant and young child feeding in emergencies. IFE Core Group 2010. Online modules, 

Module 2 For health and nutrition workers in emergency situations. IFE Core Group 2007. Supports basic knowledge and skills to support safe and appropriate infant and young child feeding. Includes simple and full rapid assessment of feeding in infants, supportive actions regarding breastfeeding, and artificial feeding in emergencies. Provides step-by-step guidance on relactation.

Operational Guidance on infant and young child feeding in emergencies, IFE Core Group, v2.1, 2007 and addendum (2010). Provides concise and practical but mainly non-technical guidance on how to ensure appropriate infant and young child feeding in emergencies.

International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent WHA Resolutions (the Code). Aims to protect all infants and young children by protecting caregivers from commercial pressures to use breastmilk substitutes.

The UNHCR (2015) Standard Operating Procedures for the Handling of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS) in Refugee Situations for children 0-23 months. Includes details on preparation of formula feeds, scenarios, calculation of feed volumes, cup feeding, complementary feeding.