BREASTFEEDING IS GREEN!
Nancy E. Wight MD, IBCLC, FABM, FAAP
“The undermining of breastfeeding is the destruction of a natural resource and should therefore be seen in the same light as logging in the rainforests or overfishing our seas and rivers.”
Andrew Radford, 1991, The Ecological Impact of Bottle Feeding
Over the past 20-30 years we have become much more aware of the ecological damage our collective lifestyles are doing to our Earth. Global warming is upon us and natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Breastfeeding is probably the most overlooked means of contributing to the health of our planet. 
Breastmilk is the perfect renewable resource. It is produced and delivered to the consumer without using other resources, and it creates no pollution. In contrast, artificial baby milk (ABM) production pollutes our land, air, and water, and uses up scarce natural resources. Artificial milk also causes many unnecessary deaths and illnesses, draining the resources of every country and region on earth.
Despite recent concerns about environmental pollutants and contaminants in mothers’ milk, research repeatedly shows that the risks of NOT breastfeeding consistently outweigh the risks of environmental contaminants in the milk. There are MORE risks of contamination with the use of ABM made from cow’s milk and soy beans (pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, steroids, phytoestrogens, aluminum, lead, bacteria, etc.). In fact, breastfeeding may help compensate for the toxins in the environment! The solution is to clean up our environment, not stop breastfeeding!
There are many reasons artificial milk feeding is not eco-friendly:
- Producing artificial baby milk contributes to inefficient use of land (~2.5 acres/cow), deforestation and soil erosion (wood to heat ABM in developing countries).
- Manufacture of packaging of ABM uses paper, plastic and tin which are not recycled (tens of thousands of tons). Dioxins are also a byproduct of paper manufacturing.
- “For every 3 million bottle-fed babies, 450 million tons of formula are consumed. The resulting 70,000 tons of metal in the form of discarded tins is not recycled”
- Manufacturing ABM contaminates water through sewage from dairy cows and fertilizers used to grow feed for cows. In developing countries ABM may be mixed with contaminated water for feeding.
- Producing artificial milks contributes to air pollution:
- Methane gas (cow flatulence and excretions) is secondary only to carbon dioxide as a contributor to global warming.
- Wood burned to heat ABM.
- Incineration of packaging, plastic bottles.
- Manufacturing of bottles, nipples and other feeding equipment uses large amounts of plastic, rubber, silicon and glass – which will take 200-450 years to break down in our increasingly scarce landfills.
- Processing ABM and producing bottles, nipples, etc. consumes energy (electric and other).
- Transportation of raw materials for ABM, packaging and other components of bottle-feeding consumes ever more scarce and expensive fuel.
- Artificial milks cost billions of dollars that could be better spent to clean up our land, air and water.
- Menstruation and fertility are delayed with exclusive breastfeeding, saving vast amounts of paper (and fuel to produce them) for sanitary products and their packaging, and more importantly, lessening overpopulation.
Breastmilk is a living, natural substance that is produced very efficiently by the mother with only a few hundred extra calories and a little extra water. It is delivered directly, without transportation or expensive packaging. The lactating mother is an exceptional national resource. Breastfeeding is not just a lifestyle choice; it is a health, social and environmental issue. Anyone interested in protecting our children and our environment should actively promote, support and protect breastfeeding.
 Radford A. The Ecological Impact of Bottle Feeding. Baby Milk Action, 1991
 Correa W. Breastfeeding and the Environment. Mothering Magazine, 1999; Issue # 95, reprinted at www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/mbr.htm
 INFACT Canada, 1997 www.infactcanada.ca/ren_res.htm
 Jelliffe DB and Jelliffe P. Human Milk in the Modern World, Oxford University Press, 1989