7 Ways Breastfeeding Helps the Environment

by Katie Black


At Lactation Lab, we believe fed is best. There are many systemic issues stopping parents from breastfeeding as long as they would like. Families need a lot more support and guidance to reach the World Health Organization's recommendations. That being said, there are a lot of unique benefits to breastfeeding if you choose to do so. 

You probably already know breastfeeding can provide lifelong health benefits to both momma and baby but did you know it also benefits the environment? Here are seven ways breastfeeding helps our planet


1. Less Dairy:

The meat and dairy industries make up about 30% of greenhouse gasses produced around the world. Livestock make a lot of methane which can trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and can be up to thirty times more potent than carbon dioxide. Most formulas are made from powdered cows’ milk—one liter of milk becomes just seven ounces of powder after processing! 




2. Less Water Waste: 


The dairy industry uses a lot of water to feed/house livestock and process milk. On top of that, formula plants also use a lot of water to produce and package formulas. The other ingredients found in formula like palm oil require lots of water too. 




3. Less Packaging 


Formula uses a lot of plastic, metal, and paper for its packaging. All of these materials have a big carbon footprint. Even when you recycle, less than 30% of those items end up actually being recycled—most still end up in landfill (plus the recycling process uses a lot of water and other resources).



4. Less Harmful Supplements 


Formula is often supplemented with palm, coconut, rapeseed, or sunflower oil (plus other ingredients) because cows’ milk is not nutritious enough for babies on its own. The farming practices are often unsustainable and hurt the local ecosystems—in fact, Nestlé was recently suspended from the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil.  


5. Less Transportation 


There are only about fifty formula processing plants worldwide! This means tons of fuel and other resources are used to take raw materials to the plants and ship the finished formula all over the world. Many countries don’t have any formula plants meaning all their products are imported overseas. 


6. Less Energy Needed 


Water needs to be heated to make sure it is safe before mixing it with formula. That’s a lot of electricity or gas needed when you add it all together. In the UK alone the energy spent on families heating formula for the first year of a baby’s life was about the same as charging 200 million smartphones. 



7. Less medical waste 

Opting for formula instead of breastfeeding can increase a child’s chances of developing infections, diabetes, cancer, and childhood obesity. That means a lot more time spent in and out of hospitals as well as more medical waste. The benefits of breastfeeding aren’t just during childhood—they are lifelong. 

Overall, each baby that is breastfed exclusively for their first six months saves between 95 and 153 liters of carbon dioxide compared with formula feeding: one more reason why breastfeeding is a great way to go when deciding how to nourish your baby. 


We also understand that just knowing about the benefits of breastfeeding isn’t enough to choose it. Parents are often unable to breastfeed because of a lack of support. To help with that, try downloading our app for free. Emily’s Care offers a 24/7 virtual lactation consultant, mental health check ins, and so much more. Or check out the Lactation Lounge, a Facebook group for breastfeeding moms to share about their journeys, and offer support. 

Related reading: Breastfeeding Support is More Important than Ever


British Medical Journal, doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5646 (Published 2 October 2019)




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