We're back in Massachusetts, where it is warmer than it is in California. Really. On Saturday it was 72 degrees in Western Massachusetts, and it was 71 degrees in Los Angeles. Saturday's temperature was the the warmest January day since records have been kept for this area. And although it's almost mid-January, there hasn't been a single snowstorm this winter.
I know that you're not supposed to generalize about climate change based on one year's weather, and certainly not one week, but weather like this certainly makes you wonder.
When we saw An Inconvenient Truth last year we were handed a flyer on ways to fight global warming in our daily lives. One thing I wish had been on the list was breastfeeding.*
So, how are you protecting the polar ice caps by sitting on your couch and nursing your baby? Consider the following.
To make breastmilk it takes:
Your pregnancy fat. Pardon the bluntness, but all you generally need is the fat you put on your behind (or other body parts) during pregnancy, and a little extra food and water. This is the reason we put on extra weight during pregnancy. We need it to fuel the roughly 500 calories a day we burn during breastfeeding.
To make formula it takes:
1. Cows and food to feed them, which leads to deforestation and the use of other resources. Each cow requires thousands of square feet of grazing land, which leads to deforestation. The cows also require feed, and further land, water, and energy is used to produce it.
2. Tons of plastic, paper, and metal for packaging, which produces waste, toxins, and landfill build-up. An article originally published in Mothering Magazine states, "For every 3 million bottle-fed babies, 450 million tins of formula are consumed. The resulting 70,000 tons of metal in the form of discarded tins is not recycled. The 550 million tins of artificial baby milk sold each year to bottle feed US babies alone stacked end to end would circle the earth one and a half times; 550 million tins equals 86,000 tons of tin and 1,230 tons of paper labels." The article also notes that "Plastic feeding bottles, nipples, and pacifiers take 200 to 450 years to break down when disposed of in landfills."
3. Fuel to manufacture, which produces carbon emissions. The process of making formula requires energy, and this means the burning of fossil fuels, which results in carbon emissions. The same can be said for the production of bottles and bottle nipples.
4. Fuel to transport, which produces more carbon emissions. To get formula to your house, it is often transported long distances from dairy farm, to factory, to warehouse, to store, to your cupboard. This shipping requires lots of fuel, and results in more carbon emissions. Some countries import formula from other, distant countries (Ecuador imports formula from the U.S. and Europe), resulting in even more fuel consumption.
Finally, breastfeeding is a form of natural birth control/child spacer, which protects the planet from overpopulation and further depletion of our resources. In fact, La Leche League's Breastfeeding Answer Book cites an estimate that if all breastfeeding were to stop, within a year there would be a 20 to 30 percent rise in the birthrate worldwide!
* Here's a quick request: If you or someone you would know how to estimate carbon emissions related to the production of formula, would you please email me? Thanks!
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