Breastfeeding, Sustainability, and Community Connection
From August 1st-7th the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week to bring awareness to barriers that still exist for families and to promote breastfeeding as the perfect form of nutrition. This year’s theme is ‘Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development’ and coincides with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The theme declares that breastfeeding benefits the environment, community, and future generations. Breastfeeding is not only a health issue for mothers and babies, but a social and an environmental issue as well. Here are four ways that breastfeeding benefits the environment:
- Little to no carbon footprint: breastmilk is completely natural and unprocessed. Artificial baby milk is manufactured in factories and fuel is used to transport the product thousands of miles in order to be distributed in various stores. This production and distribution process contributes to greater carbon emissions which lead to global warming and negatively impacts the environment.
- No waste: breastmilk production is completely based on supply and demand. You won’t ever need to throw away extra milk, packaging, containers or nipples that your baby has outgrown, meaning fewer items end up in a landfill. Most products for artificial baby milk feeding are made of plastic, silicone or glass. Many of these products take hundreds of years to break down in landfills.
- Little to no energy or resources used: the entire process of producing breastmilk takes place completely in-house… and that house is your body! No water, bottles, electricity, soap or formula needed.
- Little to no cost: unlike other forms of feeding that require the purchase of other items, all you need is you and your baby. Breastfeeding is low-cost, affordable, and practical.
The World Breastfeeding Week theme also emphasizes the importance of partnership and collaboration when striving to create change. Multi-sector collaboration is necessary to promote health and wellness in our society. Breastfeeding plays a vital role in creating a sustainable, equitable, and healthy future. It is with this in mind, that breastfeeding should be protected and celebrated to ensure vibrant and healthy communities. I invite you to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and to join an event in your area. For a list of World Breastfeeding Week celebrations, check out Breastfeeding Events or the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington July 2016 Newsletter for the most comprehensive list. How will you celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and be a community partner in protecting the environment?
World Breastfeeding Week Podcast
World Breastfeeding Week 2014
By Alessandra DeMarchis, WithinReach Breastfeeding Promotion Intern
Last fall, I started the Master in Public Health program at the University of Washington with a focus on nutritional science. I have been interested in nutrition and food since before I can remember, but this fall I learned about the world’s most perfect food: breast milk. Breast milk is amazing! As a young woman, it is incredible to know that my body has the capacity to create the most nutritious food for a baby. Not only can my body produce enough of this food to sustain even twins, it also changes in composition, synchronized to the changing needs of the baby. Breast milk is a baby’s first vaccine and only food source for six months. Did I mention it is free? Breast milk is so powerful that it can actually reduce my future baby’s risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, while at the same time reducing my risk of certain cancers.
So why did the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card from 2013 show that only 76.5% of babies in the United States have ever breastfed, and a mere 49.0% of babies are breastfeeding at 6 months? Washington State is not doing much better, with only 87.9% of babies ever being breastfed and 60.2% being breastfed at 6 months. If breast milk is free and the most perfect food source for a baby, than why are so many babies receiving artificial formulas? Until the 19th century, women throughout history exclusively breastfed their babies. Why did formula become the new normal and breastfeeding an activity done in secluded places? The truth is that breastfeeding can be especially difficult when mothers do not have emotional, informational, and logistical support of their family, friends, co-workers, employers, medical providers, community, and government.
World Breastfeeding Week, held every year from August 1 – 7, creates the opportunity for groups and organizations around the world to take action for raising awareness and support for breastfeeding. World Breastfeeding Week 2014 highlights the role of breastfeeding in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The eight MDGs were set in 1990 to promote sustainable development and health and eradicate poverty and hunger. Breastfeeding is linked to each of the MDGs. In terms of the first goal, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, breast milk is a cost effective way of feeding babies, packed with high quality nutrients and energy. For the goal to ensure environmental sustainability, breastfeeding creates less waste from pharmaceuticals, plastic, aluminum, as well as firewood and fossil fuels. To achieve the post-2015 development agenda, organizations around the world must acknowledge and emphasize the value of increasing and maintaining the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding.
World Breastfeeding Week is a time for organizations to take action toward a world where breastfeeding is once again the societal norm. Every child should have a fair start at life, and that means ensuring all mothers have the support they need to provide their babies with breast milk.
Click here to see how Within Reach is promoting World Breastfeeding week. To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week and this year’s theme, visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.