Sustainable Breastfeeding: A State-of-the Art Review

Yeon Kyung Bai, Manar Alsaidi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Disparities in breastfeeding rates and exclusivity exist across regions and countries despite multifaceted breastfeeding promotion efforts in recent decades. Markets for artificial milk formula continue to grow as its substitution for breastfeeding is common. A new approach is needed for breastfeeding promotion strategies. Research Aim: This state-of-the-art review aimed to describe the implications of not-breastfeeding on the environment within the context of food system sustainability. Method: A total of 19 peer-reviewed articles within a 20-year timeframe were included in this review. Authors searched five databases for articles including Science Direct, GreenFILE, Springer Link, ProQuest, and PubMed. Results: The demand for artificial milk formula production as a replacement for breastfeeding results in increased greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and waste, thereby aggravating problems with freshwater scarcity. A short duration of breastfeeding and limited exclusivity have been associated with close birth spacing and contributing to global population growth. Breastfeeding is a healthy, sustainable diet, and a culturally acceptable first food. It advances health equity and food security. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life can be promoted with emphasis on total carbon footprint reduction, prevention of waterway degradation, and natural birth spacing, thereby sustaining food systems at large. Conclusion: It is important to reform food, nutrition, and environmental policies to protect exclusive breastfeeding while decarbonizing artificial milk formula production. More research is needed to provide directions for new breastfeeding promotion strategies connecting breastfeeding with environmental stewardship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-68
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Human Lactation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • breastfeeding
  • breastfeeding practices
  • breastfeeding support
  • Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding
  • sustainability


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