With the increased interest on going “green”, what role can parents play in advocating for their children’s health as well as Mother Earth? I have found that by engaging environmental advocates, I have increased the advocacy base for those who support natural birth, breastfeeding, and natural parenting, by simply stating the facts. Here are some of the more topical points in the environmental movement today, and especially those that impact our population of pregnant women and babies.
The chemical is known as bisphenol A or BPA and is still used in plastic baby bottles, and many other food and beverage containers including infant formula cans. Studies suggest that the dangers of BPA leaching into the milk of babies in a bottle could include: low sperm count, hyperactivity, early puberty, obesity, small testes size, and enlarged prostates. There are no government safety standards which limit the amount of BPA in infant formula. The role of the childbirth professional continues to be to promote breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way to feed an infant. For mothers desiring to use bottles, encourage non-BPA (non-polycarbonate) and recyclable propylene bottles.
The best alternative to baby bottle and formula concerns: Breastfeeding!
As we know breastmilk is the only free, natural, renewable food resource and is all the baby needs for the first 6 months of life. During prenatal education, teach the benefits to mother, the benefits to baby and do not neglect to mention the benefits to Mother Earth. Some of the best evidence for breastfeeding fitting the eco-friendly lifestyle includes:
- Requires no resources for advertising, packaging, shipping, or disposal.
- No water or energy is wasted sterilizing bottles and refrigerating them.
- It does not create pollution from the manufacturing and disposal of bottles, teats, and cans.
- It helps space babies by suppressing fertility in the mother which lowers the population burden and impact.
Fact: Every child adds about 6500 disposable diapers to our landfills.
Fact: Disposable diapers have little to no recycling potential and the long term effects of them on the environment remains unknown.
Fact: Disposable diapers can take up to 500 years to decompose.
Fact: Our clients trust our recommendations and turn to us for input on their consumer goods and purchases. We have an ecological responsibility to market products which are both healthful and environmentally sound. By increasing environmental awareness we automatically increase health awareness.
Alternatives to disposable diapers:
- Hybrid diapers (cloth cover, flushable inside liner) from gDiapers.com. Gdiapers offer a childbirth educator sample. Contact them via their website.
- Cloth diapers, easy to use, velcro and snaps and very comfy for baby.
- Still a disposable, but a “greener” disposable is one not made with plastics and gels, but rather non-bleached wood pulp! Tushies and Seventh Generation make such diapers as well as other brands.
In your first prenatal meeting or class, nutrition is surely to come up. The FDA wants pregnant women to know that some fish contain high levels of a form of mercury called methylmercury that can harm an unborn child's developing nervous system if eaten regularly. By being informed about methylmercury and knowing the kinds of fish that are safe to eat (www.epa.gov ) women can help prevent harm to developing babies. Ethylmercury, the type formerly in our children’s vaccines, is not the same as methylmercury and is excreted quickly from the body. Methylmercury can store easily in fat (ie: maternal stores for pregnancy and lactation) and is potentially toxic.
By engaging in the environmental effort you will also increase your family’s healthful practices, and contribute to a larger cause. Incorporate “green parenting” into your practices and evaluate the ever changing recommendations and work to institute change for the health of ourselves, our babies, and planet.
About the author
Mirine Dye, MPH, has a master’s in public health, and is a certified health education specialist as well as lactation consultant. She is an alumni of the American Public Health Association Maternal and Child Health Leadership Institute and is the national chair for the maternal and infant nutrition committee with APHA. She can be reached through her consulting firm http://www.preventionworksmonroe.org/