6 green reasons why breastfeeding is the best feeding
Not only is breast milk free, nutritious and easily portable, it's also a waste-free renewable resource. Jennifer Chait explores some options.
Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 09:30 AM
As an expecting or new parent, breastfeeding your baby is one of the smartest, and greenest, decisions you can make. Here are six reasons to give bottles the boot:
1. Breastfeeding saves energy
Breast milk is ready to go straight from the tap, and it's already the perfect temperature for your baby — no heating required. Breastfeeding saves the energy needed to mass produce and distribute baby bottles and formula, and even recycling the bottles consumes energy. Breast milk, however, has its own convenient storage facility. While many parents make a few bottles of formula at once and store them in the fridge, breasts don't need to be kept on ice.
2. Breastfeeding is plastic-free
Most baby bottles on the market contain various forms of plastic. Plastic, usually made with oil, is one of the world's worst environmental scorns. There are no hard-and-fast numbers about just how much petroleum is used to make plastic, but most studies estimate that it accounts for about 8 percent of the world's yearly oil consumption. Besides draining fuel resources, plastics produce harmful and toxic wastes such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and more, all of which are taking a toll on the air, water and soil, not to mention our health. Lastly, as much as people love to talk about recycling, many plastic bottles never even make it to the recycling plant, and even when they do, they aren't typically recycled into new bottles. Plastics are not part of a closed-loop recycling plan. Instead plastics are downcycled into other products, a process that may not be energy or cost-efficient.
3. Breastfeeding is biodegradable
Baby bottles are a very specific product. While you may be able to repurpose some for other household applications (think paint dispensers and marble jars) they're really only useful for one task — feeding your baby. You can buy plastic, glass or even Earth-friendly bottles, but in the end, you've got a product on your hands with limited usefulness and a limited lifespan. You can recycle some bottles, sure, but even with recyclable ones, not all parts are recyclable (such as the nipples and liners), and that contributes to our overstuffed landfill issue. We're not ancient Greeks, but like them, our baby bottles do not biodegrade.
4. Breastfeeding reduces waste
Bottles and formula present a costly and excessive packaging problem. Boxes, paper and plastics that take energy both to manufacture and recycle are used to package bottles, bottle accessories and formula. Meanwhile, a mother's milk is waste-free, unless of course you count Victoria's Secret as fancy breast-milk packaging. But, hey, at least they're working on organics and going green!
5. Breastfeeding reduces gasoline use
Breastfeeding stops those late-night trips to the grocery store for formula. Breastfeeding reduces the need for gasoline used to ship bottles and formula. Breastfeeding may even reduce drives to the pediatrician's office, since breastfed babies are typically healthier.
6. Breastfeeding reduces exposure to chemicals
Many brands of baby bottles in recent years have been shown to leach dangerous chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates both into babies' milk and into the air, soil and water. You can choose lead-free glass baby bottles over traditional plastic ones, but these pose their own breakage and recycling issues. You can also buy nontoxic baby bottles, although these can be expensive. If you're concerned about toxins in breast milk, research suggests you shouldn't worry. While breast milk can contain low levels of toxins, formula presents much larger ecological problems. The most economical, nontoxic choice for your baby and the planet is breastfeeding.
Related on MNN: Second best to breast: Glass bottles
MNN homepage photo: netris/iStockphoto