BREASTFEEDING advocates have found a natural ally in environmentalists in their raging battle against pharmaceutical and milk companies over the suspended implementation of stricter rules governing the promotion of breast-milk substitutes.

Environmental groups under the EcoWaste Coalition, a public-interest network tackling waste and pollution issues, have expressed support for the efforts undertaken by the Department of Health and breastfeeding activists in defending the “culture of breastfeeding,” which they say is suffering from the aggressive marketing campaigns of milk and advertising companies to create a larger market for infant formula.

In advocating for breastfeeding, Ecowaste says it believes that breast milk is best for babies and their mothers, in terms of providing the best nutritional start in life for children, providing babies with essential nutrients, adequate water for hydration, and antibodies to protect them against infection and allergy, and at the same time enhancing positive mother-baby bonding and development.

Medical evidence does attribute infant deaths and malnutrition in children to the decline in breastfeeding practice. At least 16,000 infant deaths annually in the country, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) reported, could have been prevented had there been exclusive breastfeeding in the first hour and the first six months; and at least two years of continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding.

But apart from acknowledging that breastfeeding promotes child and maternal health, EcoWaste asserts that it is also best in protecting the environment, adding that any attempt to undermine breastfeeding is a “gross disservice to Mother Earth and humanity.”

“Breastmilk, to emphasize the obvious, is produced and delivered to the infant consumer without creating waste and pollution that leads to climate change and a host of community health and environmental problems. It is naturally produced and is readily available anytime at the right temperature to satisfy the baby’s nutritional needs,” says lactating mother Gigie Cruz of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, an EcoWaste member.

Cruz also points to the fact that unlike infant formula, breast milk does not require paper, plastic and tin packaging, as well as feeding gear like plastic bottles and teats, whose production is said to consume lots of raw materials while generating tons of wastes and toxics in the process.

“By breastfeeding, women forestall the further destruction of our ravaged environment, given that breastfeeding requires no forest to be cleared for pasture or to grow cattle feed, no trees to be felled for the labels and promotional tricks, no mountain to be mined to produce tin cans, and no fossil fuels to be burned to support the complex cycle of producing and transporting milk substitutes,” she claims.

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) also cautions against breast-milk substitutes. Its website FAQ provides the following information:

There are different contaminants in commercial feeding products, including infant formula, the water in which it is mixed, the containers in which it is stored and often in the bottles used for feeding. Heavy metals such as lead, aluminum, cadmium and mercury, chemical residues from pesticides and fertilizers, and hormone-disrupting plasticizers have all been found in commercial infant foods. Recalls of infant formula from the market are regularly made because of industrial and bacterial contamination; they are not sterile products. Reports and advisories in recent years have warned that infant formula can be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, after several infants died or became seriously ill from consuming infant formula contaminated by Enterobacter sakazakii. In addition, while some common contaminants such as nitrates in ground water may be tolerated when ingested by a breastfeeding mother, they can be fatal if the water is given directly to the baby.

The use of genetically engineered ingredients (such as soy in soy-based infant formulas) and the inclusion in infant formula of components produced by genetic modification, pose new and as yet unknown risks. Although these are not chemical contaminants, they underscore the importance of promoting breastfeeding as the healthier choice.

Compared to the natural production of breast milk, the production of infant formula adds to environmental contamination. The consumption of materials such as fossil fuels, wood products, and other kinds of energy, as well as the clearing of forests for cattle grazing, and the ensuing production and disposal of wastes (greenhouse gases and the use of metals, plastics, and paper for infant formula packaging) are prominent features of the manufacture, distribution, and use of commercial infant and baby foods. In contrast, the production and consumption of breast milk is an environmentally friendly act.

3 Responses to Breast milk environment-friendly too



June 26th, 2007 at 2:48 pm

These irritating info commercials on breast-milk substitutes simply has to be banned period. They are clearly deceiving a lot of people w/ those ads about “gifted children” due to certain infant formula. A cow’s milk is better than a mother’s milk? It’s so ridiculous. Sadly a lot of people have been deceived by these aggressive marketing campaigns by milk & pharmaceutical companies.

If it is true that these milk commercials are banned if not regulated in other countries, I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it here in the Philippines. These milk companies should be stopped from fooling the people. But it’s so ironical that the wife of Joker Arroyo is the one defending these companies. So much for delicadeza, I guess lawyers will always be lawyers.


Global Voices Online » Milk wars in the Philippines: Breastmilk versus Infant Formula

July 11th, 2007 at 2:48 pm

[…] Clerical Whispers reports that a World Health Organization official asked the help of the influential Catholic Church to promote breastfeeding. Mom Exchange is happy over the operation of a breastmilk bank in the country. Environmentalists also endorse breastfeeding. Sonnie’s porch blogs about the milk wars and corporate social responsibility. Tiene Ara Zamboanguena is shocked that some mothers are using coffee creamer as breastmilk substitute. […]


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