Earth Day sheds light on the environmental impact of breastfeeding

Published: 20 April 2021 to 31 December 2098

Earth Day is held annually on 22 April and sees thousands of organisations come together for 3 days of action between 20 – 23 April. 

The theme this year is ‘Restore Our Earth’ and, as part of the national campaign, virtual sessions will examine topics such as natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.

To celebrate Earth Day, the Yorkshire and Humber Breastfeeding and Climate Change group, a sub group of the Yorkshire and Humber National Infant Feeding network supported by the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative, are sharing a presentation. This explores and informs people about the impact of infant feeding practices on the environment.

The group is made up of several Infant Feeding Leads from our teams and others’, who work in a variety of settings and are passionate about spreading awareness for breastfeeding and increasing the number of women who choose to start and continue to breastfeed their baby.

Breastfeeding contributes to healthier mothers and babies and improves public health, but it is far less known that breastfeeding also contributes to a healthier planet, as it is environmentally friendly.

Breastfeeding does not waste scarce resources or create pollution, and it also has a negligible water footprint. It’s also important to note that breast milk is a naturally-renewable resource that requires no packaging, shipping or disposal, thus reducing waste and the overall impact on the environment.

Breast milk is a free and safe resource that is uniquely suitable for human babies, which helps to minimise environmental impact as well as any effects of environmental exposure on both mother and baby. As a renewable and natural food resource, breastmilk contributes to local food security. Additionally, from a climate perspective, breastfeeding is an opportunity for families to build climate resilience by using a safe and secure food source.

It is widely accepted that breastfeeding is a key factor in ensuring that all babies have the best start in life. The Department of Health recommends that all babies are exclusively breastfed for six months, with ongoing breastfeeding for at least one year, alongside the introduction of appropriate solid foods.

In both the short and long-term, breastfeeding can protect mothers and babies against both acute and chronic diseases. Breastfeeding further reduces the risk of babies developing many illnesses, provides protection against later childhood diseases, has a positive effect upon infant and maternal health and wellbeing, and promotes bonding between mother and baby. No other health behaviour has such a broad-spectrum and long-lasting impact on public health.  

If you would like to learn more about breastfeeding and local services that may be able to support you, please contact Pauline Dumble, Infant Feeding Lead, via email p.dumble@nhs.net

  • Summary: