Monday, September 22, 2008

Mother Nature Loves Breastmilk

This article has run in a number of publications, including: Long Island Parenting News, Tidewater Parent, Parents Express, Potomac Children, L.A. Parent, San Diego Parent, City Parent [Ontario, Canada], All About Kids, and Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Sydney's Child [Australia], and Melbourne's Child [Australia]

Mother Nature Loves Breastmilk
© Dia L. Michels

Breast is best is a common adage, and most people can tell you that breastfeeding is good for babies. Some people are even aware that breastfeeding is good for mothers, but few folks are aware that breastfeeding is good for the environment. Saving our world's forests, minimizing destruction of the ozone layer, and curtailing contaminants of our soils and seas are common environmental themes, yet when it comes to taking care of Mother Nature, breastfeeding can't be beat.
Breastmilk may look white, but actually, it is as "green" as can be. The ecological consequences of cloth vs. disposable diapers are debated routinely, yet they are small potatoes compared to the consequences of the breast vs. formula decision. Breastmilk is one of the few foodstuffs produced and delivered to the consumer without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste, whereas the production, shipping, and preparation of formula and bottles requires large amounts of water, fuel, glass, plastic and rubber -- and produces significant amounts of garbage.
Many people know that breastfeeding is best for babies. Some people know that breastfeeding offers health benefits to the mother. But very few people realize the importance of breastfeeding for the environment.

Dairy production destroys land and pollutes air and water

Substituting cow's milk (the primary ingredient in infant formula) for breastmilk destroys the water, land and air. Cow manure and urine pollute rivers and ground water, while nitrate fertilizers used to grow feed for dairy cows leach into rivers and water. Cow flatulence releases methane into the atmosphere and is a major contributing factor to the destruction of the ozone layer. It would take 135 million lactating cows just to substitute the breastmilk of the women of India; that many cows would require 43% of the surface of India be devoted to pasture. Land used for pastures often comes from clearing forests, a practice that erodes and depletes the soil.

Artificial feeding causes waste and uses valuable resources

If every child in America were bottle-fed, almost 86,000 tons of tin would be needed to produce 550 million cans for one year's worth of formula. If every mother in the Great Britain breastfed, 3000 tons of paper (used for formula labels) would be saved in a year. But the formula is not the only problem. Bottles and nipples require plastic, glass, rubber, and silicon; production of these materials can be resource-intensive and often leads to end-products that are not-recyclable. All these products use natural resources, cause pollution in their manufacture and distribution, and create trash in their packaging, promotion, and disposal.

Artificial feeding means more tampons, more diapers

Women who practice total, unrestricted breastfeeding average over 14 months without menstruating. Multiply this by the four million US births each year to see that over one billion sanitary products annually could be kept out of our nation's landfills and sewers. To compound the scenario, because breastmilk is absorbed by babies more efficiently; breastfed babies excrete less and thus require fewer diaper changes than formula-fed babies. Manufacturing the additional diapers, menstrual pads, and tampons involves the need for fibers, bleaching and other chemical processes, packaging materials, and fuels.

Breastfeeding lessens infant mortality

Breastfeeding is a more effective method of birth control, world-wide, than all other methods combined -- without taxing the household's financial resources or endangering a woman's health. Mothers who breastfeed exclusively (that is, frequently, on demand, including during the night, and with no supplementation) generally enjoy a significant period of natural birth control. Lactation-induced infertility serves to increase the spacing between births. This is important since children born less than two years apart are almost twice as likely to die as those born more than two years apart.

Breastfeeding reduces over-population

Breastfeeding not only decreases deaths by limiting fertility, the immunizing agents in breastmilk produce healthier babies. Formula-fed babies get sick more often, get sicker, and have higher death rates than breastfed babies. And the health benefits of breastfeeding can be seen throughout life, not just in infancy. Women have more babies when the chances of their children living long enough to care for them in old age is small -- more babies are an insurance strategy. When parents can reasonably expect their children to live into adulthood, they choose to have fewer children.

Breastfeeding - a valuable natural resource

Two years ago, President Clinton, joining an unprecedented worldwide consensus, voted to impose restrictions on the advertising and promotion of infant formula. His vote demonstrates a new American commitment to breastfeeding.
Infant formula represents the case where a superior product is being discarded at significant expense -- to the baby, the mother, and the environment. We need to promote and protect our natural resources, whether they grow in a forest, swim in the sea, or come from our bodies. Let's add breastfeeding to the ways we can honor and cherish the most incredible mother of all -- Mother Nature.
Dia L. Michels P.O. Box 15348 Washington, DC
Original file at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best posts I have come across today, I just loved going through it, keep interesting posts like this coming, you are awesome!

Nicole using Avent Isis these days.