This week is National Breastfeeding Week and the theme is Celebrating Breastfeeding. I have agonised over writing a blog post in support all week. I really want to talk about the environmental aspect of breastfeeding, but I’m always wary of posting about breastfeeding. Why? Because everytime anyone posts about the positives of breastfeeding, those who needed to formula feed get upset.
So, before I start, I will make this assertion – THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOUR BABY IS FED.
This post is not to make anyone feel guilty about circumstances, it is just food for thought for those on the fence and celebrating the awesomeness of nature.
Now, why do I think breastfeeding has anything to do with the environment? Well, here are some thoughts:
- 1. At it’s most basic you don’t need to buy any equipment (one of the main reasons big business is not breastfeeding friendly, it can’t make any money from it!). Whereas formula feeding requires bottles, sterilisers, bottle warmers, bottle brushes etc.. In reality, most women in the UK will use some of the equipment needed for formula feeding for expressing milk, but perhaps not as much. I managed with 2 bottles and a cold water steriliser.
- 2. You don’t need any external energy to prepare the feed. Boiling water to prepare feeds safely uses electricity. Sterlisers are often steam or microwave sterilisers which also use electricity.
- 3. Most infant formula is produced from cow’s milk and the dairy industry itself has an environmental impact. The dairy industry in the EU is responsible for destruction of habitat for natural wildlife and loss of biodiversity, pollution of waterways with nitrates, over fertilisation of the soil by manure causing build up of chemicals and air pollution caused by methane (yes – cow farts are an environmental problem!).
- 4. Packaging – it is estimated that if 50% of British mother’s fed with infant formula, then 26 million tubs of formula would be discarded every year, although some of the materials involved can be recycled, not all can or will be. In particular, there seems to be a rise in single use cartons that are discarded in general waste.
- 5.Turning cows milk into formula uses lots of energy. The milk is heat-treated at very high temperatures and mechanical procedures are used to remove certain aspects of the milk and to add others, then to pulverise the milk. All of this causes pollution.
- 6.The cans of formula have to be transported to shops and from shops to home, which also has an environmental impact.
- 7. Finally, the formula industry produce huge amounts of advertising material to promote their products, which in themselves have an environmental impact.
So there you go, reasons why breastfeeding is the greener option!
But as always, if you need formula to feed your baby, for whatever reason, a healthy baby and mother is most important.