Breastfeeding: Saving babies & Mother Earth

Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (August). For this month, we write about the World Breastfeeding Week 2014 – Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life and share how breastfeeding can help the Philippines achieve the 8 Millennium Development Goals developed by the government and the United Nations. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

BF Carnival1

My family and friends know I love breastfeeding and I feel strongly for it. Ironically, it was a study on formula milk marketing I helped conduct which introuced me to the wonders of breastfeeding. I love it so much that when I was able to successfully breastfeed Joya, I approached Velvet and asked her to train me to be a breastfeeding peer counselor. Becoming one opened my eyes to how breastfeeding is not just about personal choices but is in fact a public health and an environmental issue. Knowing now what breastfeeding contributes to society, I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of all moms to breastfeed their babies. No, I am not going activist on you (I studied in UP Diliman and though I appreciate the role that activism has played in our history, I am not fit for it.) but to put it bluntly, walang sinabi ang formula sa breastmilk! We can talk for days about breastfeeding and formula milk feeding and there is no aspect in which formula milk will come out on top.

In a society as economically-struggling and as inefficient in maximizing resources such as ours, it is vital that mothers realize what breastfeeding does to their babies. Unfortunately, because of the combined effect of formula marketing, inefficient information and knowledge dissemination, poor maternity provisions, lack of community and government support, low education levels, and the rise of the career women phenomenon (this is what I call the movement towards working outside of the home and the wrong thinking that working and breastfeeding cannot go together), giving formula has been raised to somewhat of a status symbol among many and sadly, breastfeeding has started to be the mark of the poor. Considering what formula feeding actually does (it increases risks of certain types of cancer, asthma, allergies, etc.), this is very alarming. As a result, here in our country, exclusive breastfeeding lasts only for an average of 24 days. This is very disheartening especially when one knows what breastfeeding can do for a baby, a family, and a country. For purposes of this article, I will discuss two things breastfeeding does that I believe are very important to any society.

Breastfeeding saves children’s lives

In the Philippines, 18.75 babies (2013 CIA worldbook estimates) die for every 1,000 live births. Eighteen babies! 🙁 I cannot imagine the pain of carrying my child in my womb, embracing and kissing her upon birth, losing sleep to be able to care for her, basically giving her my all… only to lose her to sickness before she turns one. This is just heartbreaking and something that no parent should go through. The good news is, infant death can be prevented; one in eight infants can be saved through breastfeeding. In our country, that translates to 2.34 kids saved. Two babies. Cynics might say those are just two but for those two babies and their four parents and eight grandparents and numerous siblings and relatives and friends, that statistic means the world!

A Save the Children report estimates that worldwide, 830,000 newborn deaths can be prevented annually only if all babies were nourished with breastmilk in the first hour of life. Colostrum, the first milk that a mommy produces, is the baby’s first vaccine and is the strongest immune system booster known to man. Imagine 830,000 babies alive and well and playing and cooing and walking and doing all the cute things babies do, merely because of breastfeeding! 830,000. That is the population of the whole Masbate saved! 🙂 Here in our country, breastfeeding in the first hour is promoted by the Unang Yakap program of the DOH. I once attended a talk by Dr. Mianne Silvestre, the program pioneer, in which she explained Unang Yakap. Although I did not have plans of having another child during that time, the way she explained Unang Yakap made me wish for another one. Haha! Needless to say, when I got pregnant with Iana, Unang Yakap was a non-negotiable for me. I had a prenatal consult with her pedia and stressed the importance of Unang Yakap and breastfeeding for me. And because I was able to breastfeed (and give expressed breastmilk) during that critical first hour (and subsequently the first few days), Iana was not given an IV dose of glucose water to combat her hypoglycemia. Yey for breastfeeding!

And we are just talking about breastfeeding during the first hour! Breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months of life protects against major childhood illnesses. A baby who is not breastfed is 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea. In our country, these two, pneumonia and diarrhea, constantly rank in the top 10 causes of infant mortality. Imagine being able to prevent death from these two diseases? As a mom who had a 2 week old baby sick with pneumonia, this statistic particularly gives me goosebumps and makes me so grateful that I breastfed my babies.

Breastfeeding saves the environment

A side effect of motherhood for me was my increased awareness of and dedication to environmental causes. I remember Jia being less than a year old when I read an article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Although my mom has taught me to be environmentally conscious (segregation was ingrained into me from the very start), being a mom myself opened my eyes to the possibility of not leaving a world decent enough to live in for my daughter. And though not many people realize it, breastfeeding saves the environment. As Dia Michels, a popular author and parenting expert, quipped, “Breastmilk may look white, but actually, it is as ‘green’ as can be.”

The manufacture of formula milk and all the paraphernalia needed to feed a baby formula burdens Mother Earth. I would be willing to bet that only a few knows that the dairy industry is responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer to a large extent. Strange but true! Cows’ belching and flatulence release methane into the atmosphere which destructs the ozone. This is such a big deal that in the US, President Obama’s climate action plan requires the dairy industry to reduce methane emissions by 25% by year 2020! Imagine if all babies were breastfed, the dairy industry will merely be a fraction of what it is at present. The production of formula itself, of course, also affects the environment negatively because of the pollution the manufacturing process emits.

The production of formula is not the only problem. The packaging of formula (tin cans, boxes, foil packs, plastic, etc) contributes to the garbage problem of our country. Those are not supposed to be manufactured at all but are produced because of formula milk. I know some would say that these can be recycled anyway. Well, first, recycling, while a very worthy cause, also uses up energy. Nothing beats not having to recycle because there is no waste. Second, a 2010 study  on recycling here in our country says that 44% of the garbage of a household can actually be recycled but recycling rate is only 28%. What happens to those that are not recycled? They stay in the landfills or worse, might have been openly dumped. 🙁

Of course, the manufacture and use of bottles and nipples also uses up so much resources, cause pollution, and create trash. On top of it all, imagine all the fuel used (and the resulting air pollution) to distribute formula and all its paraphernalia to stores.

Breastfeeding, on the other hand, merely needs the baby to be at his mommy’s breasts and voila, he is fed and cared for – no methane emissions, no manufacturing pollution, no recycling concerns, no distribution needed. Indeed, breastfeeding is green!

For someone who tries so hard to reduce her family’s carbon footprint, breastfeeding is a surefire way of achieving that goal. Yey again for breastfeeding!

 

As I said above, I feel strongly for breastfeeding. It is not just a superfood, it is the perfect food. With something as wonderful as breastmilk readily available, why settle for something inferior to give to your baby? So please go ahead,  breastfeed and encourage others to do the same – you will be saving babies and Mother Earth.

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Here are many thoughts and reasons why we should all advocate for mothers to breastfeed for the first 1,000 days of life #BF1st1000days

Jenny shares experiencing the One Asia Breastfeeding Forum

Mec insists to do the Math and breastfeed!

Ams, The Passionate Mom says Breastfeed for a Better Future

Pat says breastfeeding saves money and the planet

Cheryl, the Multi-Tasking Mama, tackles maternal health as addressed by breastfeeding

2011 CNN Hero Ibu Robin highlights gentle births and breasfeeding, even in disaster zones

Felyn stresses that Healthy Moms = Healthy Babies

Monique reminds us that there are second chances in breastfeeding

Normi relates how breastfeeding gave her strength and purpose

Nats thanks Dr. Jack Newman for showing how breastfeeding can be a win-win situation

Em believes breastfeeding is a solution to societal problems

Marge shares what breastfeeding has taught them

Kaity was empowered financially and as a woman through breastfeeding

Madel relates her breastfeeding saga

Jen of Next9 reminds us to do our research and share what we know

Celerhina Aubrey vows to work on one mother at a time

Grace wants to put an end to stories of toasted coffee and similar stuff over breast milk

Diane shares how she prevailed when things did not go according to plan

Hazel appreciates mommy support groups

Roan combines two passions, breastfeeding and architecture

Queenie tackled breastfeeding as the best choice for the environment as well and breastfeeding myths and poverty

Rosa shares how the picture she thought of was realized

Sally believes breastfeeding benefits mankind and our planet Earth

Floraine reminds us that breastfeeding helps combat diseases

Crislyn was happy to realize that she improved her own health by breastfeeding

Armi reminds us how breastfeeding during emergencies is crucial

Arvi tells us how breastfeeding made her look at her body a different way

Giane reminds us that women empowerment can begin by seeing breastfeeding as more than a feeding issue

Liza thought she was only breastfeeding for her child

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Comments

  1. says

    and I feel strongly about breastfeeding because God, in His wisdom, created a dynamic, relationship, setup that allows sooooo many sectors to survive, prevail, win 🙂

    thanks for the stats on this post 😀

  2. says

    Kakatakot pala yung story mo with Jia getting pneumonia. Buti na lang may breast milk, parang magic potion. I agree on what you said that: “With something as wonderful as breastmilk readily available, why settle for something inferior to give to your baby?” Tama! 🙂

  3. says

    I feel you. It saddens me to realize that we live in a world where breastfeeding is just an option. So I am glad we have mummy groups and the like that educates mums like me on the benefits of breastfeeding. Nice post you have here. 🙂

  4. says

    You know I love the numbers since it gives us a good idea on how huge breastfeeding can improve and it’s only what the numbers tell you but the many “intangible” benefits!
    Love this entry!
    Thank you for taking us back to reality and how important what advocates do for breastfeeding!

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  1. […] Arvi tells us how breastfeeding made her look at her body a different way Clarice elaborates on how breastfeeding saves lives and the planet Giane reminds us that women empowerment can begin by seeing breastfeeding as more than a feeding […]