The Grapevine

Scientists Say Benefits Of Breastfeeding Could Also Fight Climate Change

Breastfeeding offers a number of health benefits, from reduced risk of asthma and allergies in babies to protection against osteoporosis and breast and ovarian cancer for the mother. But a new report details another surprising effect of breast milk.

Researchers from the United Kingdom suggest that breastfeeding babies could fight climate change and reduce its effects. They said it mainly helps reduce carbon emissions from manufacturers of milk substitutes. 

The report, published in the BMJ, estimates that breastfeeding regularly for six months could cut up to 153 kilograms of carbon per baby. That is equivalent to 50,000 to 77,500 cars removed from the road in one year. 

Formula milk contributes to growing carbon emission because of its production process. It involves farming, storage, pasteurization, drying, cooling, packaging and shipping, which all use large amounts of water and fuel, researchers said. 

Breast milk alternatives also produce more waste. Over the past decade, there were 550 million used formula milk cans every year, ScienceAlert reported.

The researchers estimated that producing 0.72 million tonnes of infant formula coming from six countries could release more than 2.8 million tonnes of carbon.

"Half of these greenhouse gases come from follow-on formulas, created in response to the World Health Organization code that prevents the marketing of formulas for babies aged 0-6 months and marketed with messages that tap into vulnerabilities of busy and anxious parents," the team wrote. "Follow-on formulas are unnecessary according to regulators and potentially harmful."

Importance Of Breastfeeding For Climate Change

The researchers then called on government leaders across the world to boost efforts to encourage parents to breastfeed their babies. Officials should launch campaigns promoting its health benefits, guiding parents in creating feeding plans and giving more access to donor milk.

Current estimates show that among 141 million babies born each year around the world, only 41 percent are breastfed until they reach six months. The U.K. is one of the countries with the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. 

"We need to acknowledge that ‘our house is on fire’ and that the next generation requires us to act quickly to reduce carbon footprints in every sphere of life," the researchers said. "Breastfeeding is a part of this jigsaw, and urgent investment is needed across the sector."

baby Estimates show that among 141 million babies born each year around the world, only 41 percent are breastfed until they reach six months. Pixabay