Groups Cite Zero Waste and Pollution Benefits of Breastfeeding (Breastfeeding: Simplest but Kindest Human Act that Protects the Environment)

As the World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1 to 7, two non-profit groups dedicated to protecting children’s health and the environment cited the benefits of breastfeeding in conserving resources and reducing garbage.

Through a joint statement, Arugaan (a support system for women with infants and young children) and the EcoWaste Coalition (an advocacy group for a waste-free and toxics-free future) hailed breastfeeding as the simplest but kindest human act that protects the environment while helping babies to grow and develop. 

“Not like the manufacturing of so-called breastmilk substitutes (BMS), breastfeeding is most eco-friendly involving no forest clearing, no mining, no fossil fuel burning, and no wasting.  It uses none of Mother Earth’s finite resources in producing the best zero waste food for babies,” said Ines Fernandez, Executive Director of Arugaan and a long-time breastfeeding advocate.

The fact sheet “Green Feeding” published by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN-Asia), Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) and Arugaan states that: “Breastfeeding is a sustainable and natural source of food and nutrition. On the other hand, industrially manufactured BMS are made from dairy and other agricultural products, which generate greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide during production, transport, and use. Their use also generates a sizable volume of waste, which needs disposal.”

“As a waste-free feeding practice, breastfeeding generates no emissions and wastes that pollute and harm the environment.  It is indeed the simplest but kindest act that humans, particularly women, can do so as not to worsen the waste and pollution problems of our society,” affirmed Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to Velvet Escario-Roxas, another breastfeeding champion from Arugaan, “the concept of zero waste is beautifully demonstrated in breastfeeding as nothing is wasted or becomes unwanted at any stage.”

“Breastfeeding produces zero waste in comparison to formula feeding as there is no waste from packaging or from plastic feeding bottles or plastic water bottles,” Roxas said, adding that “breastfeeding also has zero water footprint.”

“Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies and then continue breastfeeding have delayed fertility, and experience delayed menstruation for an average of 14 months. This ensures that the mothers use fewer menstrual pads and tampons which end up in landfills or incinerators,” said Roxas.

“Breastfed babies need less nappies or diapers, and thus use less disposable nappies to overload landfill sites and municipal incinerators,” she further said.

Echoing the report “Formula for Disaster: Weighing the Impact of Formula Feeding vs Breastfeeding on Environment,” Arugaan and EcoWaste Coalition stressed, “formula feeding is an unnecessary use of the earth’s precious resources and energy supplies.”

“It produces the waste materials from packaging and non-biodegradable plastics which accumulate in landfill sites, or are burned in open fires or in incinerators, which produce toxic emissions, especially when incinerators are over-burdened by waste,” the report said.

Published by IBFAN-Asia and BPNI, the report emphasized: “it is essential to increase environmental awareness about the impact of formula feeding given that infant formula production and consumption is one of the major threats to breastfeeding and to the environment.”