Editor's Blog

Economics and ecology for birth and parenting educators

 Like many of you I am sure, I spent the last days of the Christmas holidays taking down the decorations and going through the Xmas cards to make sure that I’d written down all the changes of address ready for the 2017 Christmas card mailing. I also gathered together all the wrapping paper, bows and festive string to cull what could be used again (a mean streak there, as you can see).

Even though we don’t have children living at home any more, and no grandchildren, I was amazed by how much wrapping paper there was. It certainly filled our blue recycling sack, kindly provided by Harrogate Council, and apparently going to be collected with far less frequency in 2017 than in 2016!

Recycling is not, in any case, a substitute for never having generated the rubbish in the first place. With this in mind, I was struck by a section headed ‘the environmental costs of not breastfeeding’ in the Lancet’s Breastfeeding Series of exactly a year ago. I quote from the second article (Collins et al., 2016):

‘Breastmilk is a “natural, renewable food” that is environmentally safe and delivered to the consumer without pollution, unnecessary packaging, or waste.’

Followed by:

‘By contrast, breastmilk substitutes leave an ecological footprint and need energy to manufacture, materials for packaging, fuel for transport, distribution, and water, fuel and cleaning agents for daily preparation and use, and numerous pollutants are generated across this pathway.’

The authors provided some precise figures:

‘In the USA, 550 million cans, 86 000 tons of metal, and 364 000 tons of paper, annually used to package the product (breastmilk substitutes), end up in landfills.’

For all of us involved in supporting and educating women and men as they embark on the journey of parenthood, I think these statements are yet another clarion call. We regularly cite the multiple physiological and psychological advantages for mothers and babies of breastfeeding, and I’m sure some of you have used the ecological arguments as well. With every year, these arguments are becoming more forceful. So there’s no slackening the pace with regards to trying to make sure that every baby, whenever possible, starts life as a breastfed baby and continues to be so for as many months (years) as the baby and his or her family want.

Very best wishes to all IJBPE readers for the New Year and good luck in the vital work that you will be doing in 2017!



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