Environmental Benefits of Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet

Not only does breastfeeding offer incredible health benefits for both mom and baby, but it’s also good for the environment

Climate change and environmental degradation are some of the most urgent challenges facing our world today. Luckily, breastfeeding has environmental benefits is a useful tool in lessening the impact of climate change—that’s why World Breastfeeding Week’s 2020 theme is “Support Breastfeeding For a Healthier Planet.” 

Formula can be a lifesaver for both baby and mom. For parents who cannot breastfeed for physical reasons or because you do not have the support at home or at work to do so, we see you and support you. The best kind of baby is a fed baby, so keep on doing your thing. 

But for those who are in a position to breastfeed, here are five reasons why making that choice is a climate-smart decision. 

1. Breastfeeding saves energy.  

The production, packaging and distribution of breast milk substitutes require an overwhelming amount of energy. According to the Journal of Perinatal Education, 60% of the world’s population uses breast milk substitutes—equating to millions of containers of formula being shipped around the world each day, expelling tons of fossil fuels in the process. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is a completely sustainable source of nourishment: it’s hyper-local, it requires a comparatively negligible amount of packaging (just enough for a breast pump and bottles) and it is 100% mom-powered. 

2. Breastfeeding decreases packaging waste. 

According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, feeding one million babies with formula for two years requires, on average, approximately 150 million cans. These metal formula cans, if not recycled, end up in landfill sites while plastic, aluminum and paper formula packaging often ends up in our oceans. Breastfeeding requires, at most, a reusable pump and recyclable bottles. When’s the last time someone told you your breasts could help save the oceans? Well, Mom, they can. 

3. Breastfeeding prevents habitat loss. 

The main ingredient of most breast milk substitutes is cow’s milk. Global demand for dairy continues to skyrocket due to population growth, and with the increasing demand for dairy, there is a growing need for space. Over the past quarter-century, forests have been cleared from an area the size of India—primarily to accommodate expanded pastures and feed for livestock production. Unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can pollute the soil, water and air of these areas and their surroundings. This leads to a greater loss of ecologically important areas, like prairies, wetlands and forests. By breastfeeding, you are helping to reduce our society’s dependence on dairy farming and, in turn, preserving our wilderness. 

4. Breastfeeding reduces the release of methane.

The increase in greenhouse gas emission is one of the two main factors in global warming, and dairy farming is a major culprit. The 1.4 billion cattle in the world contribute about 40 percent of all human-produced methane annually. According to the EPA, methane is a potent greenhouse gasabout 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth over a 100-year timescale and more than 80 times more powerful over 20 years. Since the Industrial Revolution, methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled, and about 20 percent of the warming the planet has experienced during that time can be attributed to the gas.

Families who are able to make the choice to breastfeed can help reduce our reliance on cattle and, with that, lower global methane emissions—a critical step in curbing the impact of climate change.

5. Breastfeeding saves water. 

The world’s 278 million dairy cows require water—lots of it. In fact, it takes 144 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of milk. Breast milk substitutes—both powder and liquid—then require additional water. By contrast, a breastfeeding parent requires about eight to 10 cups of water per day, according to The Journal of Perinatal Education. Not to mention that breastfeeding helps reduce water pollution from dairy farms: manure and fertilizer runoff from these farms contribute to the growth of algae in local waterways—reducing oxygen for aquatic plants and animal life. So, stay hydrated, Mom. You’re doing serious conservation work. 

Are you ready to make a positive environmental impact through breastfeeding? Order your insurance-covered breast pump today. We’ll check your coverage for you and get a breast pump shipped right to your door.