Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Breastfeeding and a Sustainable World

on April 20, 2015

When we are breastfeeding, our focus is generally on the benefits to our own baby and our family. Thinking about the economic and environmental sustainability of the world is not what most new mothers are doing and yet by breastfeeding you are contributing to both.

As the United Nations prepares to announce the beginning of the Sustainability Development Goals era, non-governmental organizations and world leaders are looking at priorities and how to create achievable benchmarks. Improving nutrition is key to most of the priority areas being considered and children’s nutrition is at the top of the list.

permission asked

A recent UNICEF report states: “In 2012, 194 Member States of the World Health Organization already agreed upon six targets to improve maternal, infant and child nutrition, which were endorsed by the 65th World Health Assembly. The selected indicators are smart, not only because they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, but because these represent markers to track the smartest investment to improve global welfare.

The World Health Assembly targets also included increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months of age to at least 50 per cent by 2025. Breastfeeding is a cornerstone of child survival, nutrition and early childhood development, so it is imperative that breastfeeding is reflected in the Sustainability Development Goals.

Sub-optimal breastfeeding practices resulted in almost 12 per cent of all deaths among children under five years of age, or about 800,000 deaths in 2011. Breastfeeding prevents malnutrition and gives children the best start in life, whether the child is born in a high-income or low-income country, to a rich family or a poor one.”

So what are breastfeeding mothers doing that fosters a sustainable economy and environment?

  • By breastfeeding, you are reducing your garbage and pollution footprint compared to the energy needed to produce, package and transport formula and the waste produced from the packaging.
  • You will also reduce your garbage and pollution footprint involved in the creation and disposal of menstrual supplies for as long as your periods are delayed by breastfeeding.
  • Artificial baby milks are expensive. In Canada, formula can cost nearly $2000 for the first year and that does not include the bottles, the nipples, sterilization, the energy to heat or cool the formula, and the value of the time spent preparing it. By breastfeeding, those funds are available for other kinds of purchases which also support the economy. In less developed countries, the percentage of a family’s total income that is needed to purchase and prepare formula is even greater than in Canada. The potential impact this has on the nutritional status of both the baby and the rest of the family is therefore much greater.
  • Babies who do not get breastmilk have more infections and diseases in infancy and when they’re older children and adults. Poorer health outcomes result in higher costs for medications and sick time which affect the individual, the family, and the economy as a whole through lost work time and greater costs to the health care system.
  • Women who don’t breastfeed are at a higher risk of cancer (breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine) and have increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. When a woman becomes ill, it affects not only herself but also her family and the economy as a whole through lost work time, the costs to replace her as the care giver to her children and extended family, and the costs to the health care system.

As you sit on the couch nursing your baby, you can feel proud of the positive impact you are making in the world simply by the act of breastfeeding.



How I Breastfed My Babies and Saved the World

Risks and Costs of Formula Feeding

Human Milk Is Green *ecologically speaking

  • It’s a natural, renewable resource and it is all the baby needs for the first six months of life.
  • It requires no resources for packaging, shipping or disposal.
  • No precious energy is wasted producing artificial baby milk and related products.
  • No land needs to be deforested for pasture or crop production.
  • It does not create pollution from the manufacturing of human milk substitutes, bottle, teats and cans.
  • It helps space babies by suppressing fertility in the mother.


If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally


If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support in the form of a donation at so we can continue to help others breastfeed.


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