Breastfeeding as an Environmental Movement

I’m recycling this post in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and the  Breastfeeding Blog Carnival “Perspectives: Breastfeeding from Every Angle,” hosted by The Leaky B@@b.  Visit for more perspectives on breastfeeding.

I’ve been thinking about breastfeeding quite a bit lately.  Perhaps it’s due to the amount of time Joshua spends nursing…  I’ve been writing this post for a while now, about why environmentalists should support breastfeeding and practices that promote breastfeeding.  I’m not going to tout the health or economic benefits, I think we’ve all heard “Breast is Best” and it’s fair to say there’s scientific consensus there.  This is about the environmental benefits of breastfeeding.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Breastmilk does not need to be made in a factory, nor does it need to be packaged or shipped around the country to consumers.  The mother’s body produces milk through a biological process without the need for fossil fuels.  There’s no need to heat water to sterilize bottles, so that’s another reduction in carbon emissions.  Of course, if a mother chooses to express milk and bottlefeed, for whatever reason, there’s still the energy savings from lack of production, packaging and shipping.

Waste Reduction

Breastfeeding creates no waste for disposal (with the exception of dirty diapers, which is a topic for another time).  This saves energy from collection and transportation of waste, as well as space in a landfill.

Water Issues

With breastfeeding, water consumption is reduced because there’s no industrial manufacturing process, and there are no bottles to wash.  In addition, in disaster areas or the developing world, breastfeeding infants are protected from contaminated water.

Other Resources

With breastfeeding, there’s no need to use metals or paper to make packages.  There’s no need for coupons or junk mail advertisement.


Population seems to be an issue that many environmentalists ignore; the so-called “elephant in the room.”  While not a 100% effective form of birth control (though I think there’s a lot to be said about the biology of the lactational amenorrhea method), breastfeeding reduces a woman’s fertility.  This increases the time between pregnancies and ultimately reduces family size.


These are just a few of the reasons why my sleep-deprived mommy brain thinks the environmental movement should be in support of breastfeeding and practices and legislation that promote breastfeeding.  What do you think?



Filed under Sustainable Living

6 responses to “Breastfeeding as an Environmental Movement

  1. Okay, first I must dismiss any authority that one might come across as having by having the URL greenmamma.

    Phew, okay, that’s done. So next I’m going to say, “I’m not really sure what the environmental movement is anymore.” But I’ll admit; I’m pretty out of the loop. Aside from the fact that in my own little world I feed the birds, pick up litter, recycle, grow a little bit of food, and have lived without air conditioning (I’ll never do that again). That said, I really don’t know what the environmental movement is anymore. I just try to take care of my own backyard and parking lots I walk across.

    Now, so far as breastfeeding as an environmental movement goes, I think that yeah, that sounds like it would line up. Less movement of resources from place to place, less fuel used to create food, it’s homemade, etc., etc.

    I do have some hesitations about this though. Second time around, for a number of reasons, I decided that bottlefeeding with formula was a better idea for my family and me. It’s not that we’re not trying to be mindful of our own backyard . . . it’s just that certain circumstances drove us in the direction of my little guy really really needing formula. We try to purchase organic brands and the more easily recycled containers of formula but we’re not perfect. I love it when I receive formula coupons in the mail because formula is so darn expensive.

    So I wonder, are formula feeding families less environmental? I’d have to argue no. We still do our part to leave as little of an impact as we possibly can.

    How we feed our babies and our children, shouldn’t that be left up to personal choice ? Should “movements” choose one way or other to feed their families?

    Just a few thoughts that I’m having at the moment. And I really really do hope that this comment is not coming across as defensive. Just trying to participate.

    • Thank you for commenting! I really appreciate your opinion Jessica, not only because you’re a wonderfully intelligent woman and IRL friend, but also because I know you’ve lived both worlds. I absolutely agree that sometimes formula is the best choice for the family. However, many moms would like to breastfeed, but due to a variety of circumstances beyond their control (short mat leave, not having access to quality lactation consultants, societal pressure, etc.) they end up using formula. I think moms that would like to breastfeed need more support, and that environmentalists should support breastfeeding due to the reasons I listed in the post. Of course I’m not talking about requiring breastfeeding, but supporting legislation that supports breastfeeding. It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s an “everyone” issue. Also, I feel a lot of what I wrote applies specifically to the developing world (spacing children, lack of clean safe water), where women often need more support in a variety of arenas.

      • I agree that women and their families too need a great deal of support to continue breastfeeding, especially when challenges, like returning to work, arise. It saddens me that many mothers, in the first world and in developing countries are pushed to use formula; it also saddens me that how we feed our babies, especially among educated mothers has become a sort of competition: “I’m a better mom because I do x, y, z.” I say, among affluent families in the first world where how we feed our babies can be a choice (I know that some families choose to breastfeed because they can not afford not to), we should have each other’s back. A simple education about how breastfeeding benefits our babies would be a must as part of that education but another important aspect would be teaching tolerance . . . we can’t jump to conclusions that a formula feeding mother chose formula because “it’s easier” or “she just doesn’t know what she’s doing” or whatever; parenting is complicated and feeding our children is just one aspect of that.

        I agree that breastfeeding legislation needs to push through to protect the rights of nursing mothers in public and in the workplace; unfortunately, it is likely improbable that any law could be passed that would force folks to be tolerant of a family choosing to formula feed over breastfeed or one that would force folks to be tolerant of seeing a boob in public (believe me, I dealt with that too).

        Getting back to the environmental aspect of this post, I agree that breastfeeding can be environmental but does not necessarily mean that one family is more environmental than another . . . it could simply be another way to frost the cake though . . . another way to benefit the earth, without it being a mandatory thing or a competitive thing.

  2. Moms do need support when they decide to breastfeed. I know my hubby’s family had never been around breastfeeding and were really funny about it at first. With my first I had some problems (made too much milk) and didn’t know why the baby couldn’t latch on or cried all the time. If my mom hadn’t been visiting for a few weeks I think I might have given up. I nursed all 3 of my babes for 2+ yrs each. What a beautiful experience to share with our children.

  3. knutty knitter

    I would have loved to breast feed for a year at least but it didn’t happen – I have a physical problem and couldn’t nurse after a couple of months – the milk simply stopped. Very frustrating! Support is very important for mothers. I know several who needed that and didn’t get it. Formula just isn’t the same and is definitely far more time consuming and annoying.

    viv in nz

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