Breastfeeding prevents climate change? Really, Dr. Newman?


I wrote yesterday about the increasing desperation of lactivists in the wake of revelations that they have grossly exaggerated the benefits of breastfeeding in industrialized countries in order to support the breastfeeding industry. Dr. Melissa Bartick stooped to character assassination. Now, another major professional lactivist, Dr. Jack Newman, offers undoubtedly the most creative, albeit the most inane, exaggerations of the benefits of breastfeeding that I’ve yet seen.

Here’s what Dr. Newman had to say yesterday on his Facebook page:

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#3ABF4C”]How green is plastic used in breast pumps?[/pullquote]

One thing that is not often mentioned at all, never mind considered seriously, is the negative effect that formula feeding has on global warming. Breastfeeding can make a difference. Therefore, efforts to combat climate change should also focus on providing mothers real, effective, skillful help with breastfeeding.

Really, Dr. Newman? Really?

How does breastfeeding prevent climate change?

Let us look at how formula feeding affects climate change starting with the manufacture of infant formula. Making cow milk formula requires cows, cows that are huge emitters of methane, a gas that is made in the intestinal tract of ruminants. And methane is a carbon emission that increases global warming. But the problem does not stop there. Cows need to be fed, this means farming in order to grow food for them, including the production of fertilizers as well as transporting the feed. Milk produced in farms is taken to factories by vehicles that use gasoline…

So let’s see if I get this straight. The problem with formula is that cows need to be fed in order to produce it? But women don’t need to be fed to produce breastmilk? Wait a second, women need to be fed, too. And arguably, they need to be fed better quality food, including … you guessed it … meat from cows!

How green is the extra food (including meat) needed to create breastmilk? The calories have to come from somewhere. Is there any evidence that the production of breastmilk takes less farming, fertilizers and transportation of food than the production of cow’s milk?

But food isn’t the only thing used by women who are breastfeeding:

How green is the plastic used in breast pumps?
How green is the electricity used to run the pump?
How green are breast pads, nursing bras and lactation consultants (fuel needed to get to and from patients)?

Oops! I guess breastfeeding isn’t going to prevent climate change after all!

But for sheer inanity, it’s hard to beat Dr. Newman’s second, nonsensical claim:

…[B]reastfeeding actually is one of the most important methods of spacing out pregnancies, at least outside the developed world.

Really, Dr. Newman? Really??!!

I guess that’s why there’s no overpopulation, starvation, infanticide, unwanted pregnancies, or botched abortions in poor countries!

Oh, wait, those countries suffer from high overpopulation, starvation, infanticide, unwanted pregnancies, and maternal deaths from abortion. Breastfeeding is actually a remarkably poor way to space pregnancies.

But the truth doesn’t seem to matter to those desperately trying to manipulate women into using their breasts to feed their children.

Why does Dr. Newman have so little respect for the intelligence of American and Canadian women? Why does he have so little respect for women’s rights to control their own bodies?

The truth, as he ought to know, is that the benefits of breastfeeding in first world countries are trivial. Women have the right to decide for themselves if they want to use their breasts to feed their babies and they don’t need efforts to manipulate them with desperate, faulty and inane arguments like those advanced by Jack Newman.