Monday, June 30, 2014

Green reasons to breastfeed

By To-wen Tseng. Originally posted on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog.

In addition to the well recognized health effects of breastfeeding, breastfeeding also confers global environmental benefits. Not only is breast milk free, nutritious, and easily portable, it’s also a waste-free renewable resource. Breastfeeding her baby is one of the smartest and greenest decision that a modern mother can make. Here are five green reasons to give bottles the boot.

Breastfeeding is a renewable resource. Human milk is a natural, renewable food that acts as a complete source of babies’ nutrition for about the first six month of life.

Breastfeeding reduces waste. There are no packages involved, as opposed to infant formulas and other substitutes for human milk that require packaging that ultimately may be deposited in landfills. Formulas and bottles present a costly and excessive packaging problem. Boxes, paper and plastics that take energy both to manufacture and recycle are used to package bottles, bottle accessories, and formula. According to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International (LLLI), for every one million formula-fed babies, 150 million containers of formula are consumed; while some of those containers could be recycled, many end up in landfills. Even recycling the packages consumes energy. Meanwhile, a mother’s milk is waste-free, unless you count a nursing bra as fancy breast milk packaging.

Breastfeeding saves energy. Breast milk is ready to go straight from the tap, while infant formulas must be transported from their place of manufacture to retail locations, such as grocery stores, so that they can be purchased by families. Breastfeeding stops those late-night trips to the grocery store for formula. It requires nothing more than mothers to consume a small amount of additional calories, and breast milk comes at the perfect temperature for the baby, no heating required. Formulas, however, need containers, need paper, need fuel to prepare, and gasoline used to deliver. Breastfeeding may even reduce drives to the pediatrician’s office, since breastfed babies are generally more healthy. Breast milk has its own convenient storage facility. While many parents make a few bottles of formula at once and store them in the fridge, breast milk can last up to 4 hours without ice. Breastfeeding reduces the carbon footprint by saving precious global resources and energy.

Breastfeeding is plastic-free. Many formula packages on the market contain various forms of plastic. Plastic, usually made with oil, is one of the world’s worst environment problems. There are no hard-and-fast numbers about just how much petroleum is used to make plastic, but most studies estimate that it accounts for about 8 percent of the world’s yearly oil consumption. Besides draining fuel resources, plastic produces harmful and toxic wastes such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and more, all of which are take a toll on the air, water, and soil, not to mention human health. Plastic is not part of a closed-loop recycling plan. Instead it is down-cycled into other products, a process that may not be energy or cost-efficient.

Breastfeeding reduces exposures to toxic chemicals. It is not until recent years that many brands of baby bottles have been shown to leach dangerous chemicals such as bisphenol-A(BPA) and phthalates both into babies’ milk and into the air, soil and water. On the other hand, research suggests that parent should not worry about toxins in breast milk. While breast milk can contain low levels of toxins, formula presents much larger ecological problems. Breastfeeding is the most economical, nontoxic choice for babies.

Breastfeeding is the best feeding. It’s the best for the babies, for the families, and the planet, too!

Meet Piglet, my little environmental protection advocate.

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