World Breastfeeding Week: Midwifery students explain surprising environmental benefits of breastfeeding

Categories: School of Health and Society

You may know that studies have found that breastfeeding has health advantages for both parents and babies, but did you know it can also benefit the environment?

Midwifery student Alexandra Taylor explains: “When you think about it, breastfeeding is obviously more sustainable than formula feeding: the manufacturing process to produce formula milk, its packaging and transportation all have a negative impact on the environment. In addition to this, formula milk needs to be made up using hot water, which further impacts the carbon footprint of formula feeding. 

“One study (Joffe et al. (2019)) actually estimated that if all UK babies were exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life, the carbon emissions saved would be equal to removing over 50,000 cars from the roads!”

Better known are the health benefits of breastfeeding, which can impact both physical and mental wellbeing. Midwifery student Abigail Lathrope explains: “It is vital to note the impact breastfeeding can have on mental health too. Research has found that those who had prenatal depression and were exclusively breastfeeding had fewer symptoms and lower rates of postnatal depression compared with those who were not. This suggests that exclusive breastfeeding may have a protective influence among those with prenatal depression.”

Abigail also acknowledges the impact of positive, good quality support for those choosing to try breastfeeding. “As midwives, whilst we have an obligation to promote breastfeeding in our role, it is important to also consider prenatal mental health, listen to peoples’ preferences on infant feeding and make sure we are providing positive support experiences and signposting people to lactation consultants/further support where required.

“Evidence shows that midwives’ knowledge and support can vastly improve the mental health of people in the postpartum period, which can, in turn, impact on maternal mortality and morbidity statistics.”

In 2021, the University of Salford became just the second in the UK to achieve the prestigious UNICEF Baby Friendly Gold Award.

This initiative works with universities to ensure that all newly qualified midwives and health visitors are able to support families with infant feeding and relationship building so that all babies get the best possible start in life.

The Gold Award recognises the University’s commitment to ensuring students are effectively prepared and educated to the highest standards in infant feeding and that the leadership structures are in place to sustain this in the long term.

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