The benefits of breastfeeding reach far beyond health, and in the face of a climate crisis the case for breastfeeding is strengthened. Breast milk is a naturally renewable resource that requires no packaging, shipping or disposal. Furthermore, it does not require intensive dairy farming or the use of non-renewable and polluting technology (Smith 2019; Karlsson et al 2019).

The economic benefits of breastfeeding for whānau are substantial. Breastfeeding is inexpensive when compared to using breast milk substitutes (milk formulas), and whānau may save on health costs due to reduced incidence of illness. The financial impacts of infant feeding can be significant, particularly for those in low socioeconomic or minority populations who are most likely to formula feed in New Zealand Aotearoa (Manhire et al 2018).

In addition, breastfeeding improves productivity in the workplace and benefits employers (Ministry of Health 2020) by reducing staff absenteeism and contributing to a more stable workforce. Employers who support their employees (through maternity benefits, breastfeeding breaks) note improved staff morale, reduced staff turnover and increased loyalty.


Karlsson J, Garnett T, Rollins N, et al. 2019. The carbon footprint of breastmilk substitutes in comparison with breastfeeding. Journal of Cleaner Production. 222: 436–45.

Manhire K, Williams S, Tipene-Leach D, et al. 2018. Predictors of breastfeeding duration in a predominantly Māori population in New Zealand. BMC Pediatrics. 18(1): 299–313.

Ministry of Health. 2020. Guidance on supporting breastfeeding mothers returning to work. URL: (accessed 19 September 2020).

Smith J. 2019. A commentary on the carbon footprint of milk formula: harms to planetary health and policy implications. International Breastfeeding Journal. 14:49.