Is Breastmilk Green?




By Dia L Michels


Human milk is produced and delivered to the consumer without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste. Most of the focus on the environmental effect of newborns is concentrated on the debate between cloth vs. disposable diapers, but the environmental consequences of formula feeding have far greater impact. Large amounts of water, fuel, paper, glass, plastic and rubber are required in the production, shipping and preparation of formula. Additionally, formula feeding produces significant amounts of solid waste. Substituting cow’s milk for human milk is costly, causes waste and uses valuable resources. For example, each year in the US, over half a million women formula feed their babies from birth. If just these mothers breastfed for a full year (with solids introduced after six months), these valuable resources would be saved:
25 million pounds of steel from formula cans
2.5 million pounds of paper
2.5 million pounds of HDPE from plastic milk containers
27 million gallons of milk, requiring 465 million pounds of dairy feed to produce
6 million gallons of oil for production, transportation and refrigeration
135 million pounds of carbon dioxide produced by the use of those 6 million
gallons of oil, requiring 35,000 acres of forest to absorb

Baumslag, N. and Michels, D., Milk, Money & Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding. Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT, 1995.

Motherwear. Business Unusual. Northampton, MA, 2000. Online at:

Reprinted with permission from Breastfeeding at a Glance, By Dia L. Michels and Cynthia Good Mojab, M.S.with Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam, Ph.D. Platypus Media, 2001, ISBN: 1-930775-05-9.

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