What does breastfeeding have to do with Earth Day?
First and foremost, it has a zero environmental impact. Its exclusive practice for six months delays a return to fertility and, that in turn, has a cascading positive effect on the welfare of the whole community. When a mother is given what she needs to succeed in doing what's best for her children and herself, she's making a difference for all of us.
Breastfeeding saves lives while protecting the environment. When you consider the costs to the environment made by the manufacture, packaging, transportation, sales and marketing of artificial baby milks, breastfeeding wins every time.
Formula requires agricultural production, which may involve land clearing for industrial farming, chemical fertilizers and pesticides for soybeans. Infant formula is also wasted when it is thrown away if the baby does not finish a bottle; something which is unlikely to happen with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is also drought resistant and does not require water other than what the mother drinks. There is no need for water for cleaning bottles and artificial nipples. Being breastfed also protects infants from possible exposure to dirty water in underserved communities.
Beastfeeding is "green" and saves money. Frequent breastfeeding, day and night, helps delay fertility return for the mother until her menses resume. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method is as effective as oral contraceptives when in use, reducing the need to purchase contraceptives and menstral care products for many months. Increasing the time between each child also has a positive effect on the health of mothers, children, and their families and on the social service dollar for the whole community. All in all, breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding, saves money by reducing our need for many commercial products, reduces pharmaceuticals, plastics, fuels and dairy waste products, shrinking our carbon footprint.
We all have a stake in this, locally, nationally, globally. Human milk remains one of our most valuable renewable resources and has been shown to be the far superior food for infants by every measure science has been able to offer. Simply respecting the wishes of breastfeeding families and offering a few words of encouragement can make a positive difference in their lives and ours as well.
Parents planning to breastfeed benefit greatly from prenatal education, nurturing and timely support by the newborn's household kin, extended family and the community at large. Support groups like La Leche League offer informtion and support to women and their families interested in breastfeding. Healthcare professionals including International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and York Region Health Services are also available to address breastfeeding issues.
Breastfeeding - the ultimate example of an ecologically sound food -- it comes to us from the most local source available, is delivered to its consumer without any pollution, and is the first step in a baby's understanding of nature's interconnectedness.
Denise is the owner/operator of 4 The Love of The Family http://www.4theloveofthefamily.com/, providing birth and postnatal support and breastfeeding support. She is also a La Leche League Canada Leader http://www.lllc.ca/