Push for breastfeeding to be a carbon offset

A baby breastfeeding/ | Newsreel
Researchers have called for more support for woman who choose to breastfeed. | Photo: Paulo Sousa

Australian researchers say breastfeeding should be treated as a carbon offset in global plans for a sustainable public health system.

In a report prepared for the World Health Organisation the team said support for breastfeeding mothers was key to creating more sustainable public health systems.

Co-Author Dr Phillip Baker, from the University of Sydney, said breastfeeding could be a valuable carbon offset and help wean the world off an economic dependence on commercial milk formula, which caused excessive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Government investments in breastfeeding should be considered a carbon offset in global plans for sustainable food, health and economic systems,” Dr Baker said.

He said 21.9 billion litres of human milk was lost annually because governments failed to invest in supporting breastfeeding.

“Commercial milk formula – generating a quarter of a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions to feed a baby for the first six months of life – is counted as boosting GDP growth, whereas the time and effort of breastfeeding women is not,” Dr Baker said.

“Caring for and nourishing children, including breastfeeding, is highly gendered work that is often ignored and under-valued economically. So we’ve seen a huge lack of investment by governments in supporting women and families who wish to breastfeed.

“Governments need to better recognise women’s contributions to sustainable food production, including breastmilk, in international and national food balance sheets.”

Dr Baker said the call to consider breastfeeding as a carbon offset was not aimed at women who chose not to breastfeed, or who needed to use commercial milk formula, but rather a call for action to governments.

“By proposing to view breastfeeding as a carbon offset, we are encouraging governments to shift their way of thinking to reduce demand for food products with high greenhouse gas emissions and make investments in sustainable food production.”

The report is available on the Bulletin of The World Health Organization