Breastfeeding isn’t just healthy for mother and child; it’s good for the environment | Opinion

By Mary Jo Daley

Can breastfeeding your baby help save the planet?

Health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented. But many do not yet realize it also has environmental benefits.

World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is just around the corner (Aug. 1-7), and the theme this year is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet.”

During my time as a state representative, I’ve been a strong advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding, and I continue my work to protect employees who are breastfeeding and to generally focus more attention on this subject.

That’s why, during this 2019-2020 legislative session, I’ve introduced H.B. 1177 and H.R. 773.

The former would fix two loopholes in federal law and would ensure private, sanitary space for exempt and non-exempt employees to express milk for up to one year after birth of a child. H.B. 1177, which has bipartisan support, was referred to the House Labor & Industry Committee in April 2019 and has remained there.

The latter seeks to recognize the week of Aug. 1-7 as “World Breastfeeding Week” in Pennsylvania and support breastfeeding as a way to enhance the well-being of all individuals worldwide. That resolution was introduced in February 2020 and was referred to the Health Committee, where it remains.

Breastfeeding is among the best investments in saving lives and improving the health of mothers and future generations. It protects children against a wide variety of infections and diseases, including sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes and respiratory illnesses. It can also improve maternal health, lowering the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, breastmilk lowers your carbon footprint because it is natural, renewable food that is environmentally safe. It is produced without pollution, packaging or waste, whereas formula production and consumption generate greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate global warming.

Pennsylvania has made marked improvements in breastfeeding rates, but our commonwealth still falls behind many other states in benchmarks set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recognizing World Breastfeeding Week helps improve protections and support for breastfeeding across the world, highlighting its critical importance for the reasons stated above.

We must protect working mothers by providing them safe and sanitary breastfeeding options, and I will continue my pursuit of legislation to offer these commonsense protections and bring attention to this wonderful, natural and healthy action.

State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, a Democrat, represents the Montgomery County-based 148th House District. She is the ranking Democrat on the House’s Women’s Health Caucus. She writes from Harrisburg.