The Environmental Impact of Breastfeeding

At SimpliFed we believe that whatever works for you in feeding your baby works for us! The most important part of choosing how to feed your child is finding what method is the right fit for your family! If you’re still deciding how you want to feed, click here for more information on different types of infant nutrition. Whether breast, bottle, or both, getting those nutrients into your little one is what matters. With that in mind, there are different benefits for each type of feeding. Breastfeeding in particular is known for its numerous health benefits, but what about the environment? Let’s talk about the connection from mother to Mother Earth, and the sustainability of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is the most environmentally friendly option available for infant nutrition. Not only is it renewable, it has no waste products, no packaging, and does not harm any natural resources. There are no energy costs to store it and no plastic required. In fact, the carbon footprint of breastfeeding is next to zero.1 While it may sound like a dream, there are drawbacks, and breastfeeding, especially exclusively, is not a viable option for every mother. However, it cannot be discounted that if you are interested in a sustainable option for feeding, breast is a great option. Other options such as formula are based in cows milk, which has a larger footprint in terms of carbon emissions and water usage. In addition, the environmental costs of manufacturing, storing, and packaging formula are high.2 Choosing to be sustainable does not mean always making the greenest choice, but rather being conscious of where in your life you can afford to reduce. If breastfeeding is not the right choice for you, there are many other ways to curb your environmental impact. 

One of the biggest benefits of breastfeeding on the environment is the lack of waste produced. Mothers who breastfeed produce enough for their baby to eat, and the source is continually renewed as long as breastfeeding is sustained. Although there are numerous positive impacts of breastfeeding on the Earth, there is a small increase in the carbon footprint of a breastfeeding mother. It is recommended that people who are breastfeeding consume around 500 calories more of food, which may slightly impact that mother’s impact, depending on how the food is sourced.2 On the other hand, a recent study showed that if an infant is breastfed exclusively for 6 months, it would save approximately 105,280 L of water and 488 kg of carbon dioxide from formula production.3 A recent study in the United Kingdom saw that if all babies were breastfed for six months, the reduction in carbon emissions would be equivalent to removing up to 77,500 cars from the road in a year.4 When compared to the small increase in calorie intake, the benefits are undeniable. In reality, every choice has externalities, and there is no perfect answer when it comes to being sustainable. 

We at SimpliFed Believe…  

That once again, do what feeding options work best for you. As we’ve said above, getting your baby nutrients is what we care about most, and supporting moms through that feeding journey is what we are here to do. There are benefits to breastfeeding, but that does not mean that other options are not beneficial as well. There are many ways to be sustainable, and while breastfeeding is one of them, it is not the only way. We encourage you to choose the option you are most comfortable with that keeps your baby growing and healthy!

Resources

1Breastfeeding and the environment. (2021, March 22). Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastmilk-and-the-environment/

2Green Feeding – climate action from birth. (2019, November 6). Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.gifa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/2019-Green-Feeding-Europe-Worldwide-Nov6.pdf

3 Davidore, M. E., & Dorsey, J. W. (2019). Breastfeeding: A Cornerstone of Healthy Sustainable Diets. MDPI.

4Brown, N. (2019, October 08). Breastfeeding can help tackle climate crisis but it’s on governments, not mums to save the world. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://phys.org/news/2019-10-breastfeeding-tackle-climate-crisis-mums.html

Claire Dowell