This year’s WBW2020 theme is “Support Breastfeeding For A Healthier Planet”, and many people might be wondering exactly how breastfeeding can help to combat climate change. The answer to that lies in the environmental cost of breastmilk substitutes in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water waste.
According to a study in 2019, producing 1kg of powdered infant formula (PIF) creates 11-14kgs carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases and 4,700 litres of water. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, creates zero waste and zero carbon and water footprint if one does not consider what a mother consumes as part of a healthy diet. Even then, the carbon and water footprint is negligible.
However, as inferred in the term “breast milk substitute”, powered infant formulas should only be used when breastfeeding is not possible and donated human breast milk is not available. What then happens when a mother wants to breastfeed and instead faces challenges that she did not anticipate or for which she was not prepared? In that case, other options need to be considered before PIFs, or any other substitute is introduced.
During a webinar hosted jointed by the Global Breastfeeding Collective/WHO/UNICEF, Dr Laurence Grummer-Strawn of WHO stated that skilled breastfeeding counselling is most useful when health workers provide mothers and families with education, reassurance/confidence, practical help, problem-solving, anticipatory guidance and consistent information. Unfortunately, that calibre of support and information required to overcome breastfeeding challenges and make informed infant feeding choices is not always easily accessible.
This was the focus of the panel discussion during a Q&A hosted by the Career Mothers for Exclusive Breastfeeding (CAMFEB) organization in partnership with the Kenya Association for Breastfeeding (KAB): the right of a mother to have access to skilled breastfeeding support services both in and out of a formal hospital setting for as long as she intends to breastfeed.
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