“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
On April 22, Earth Day Network will lead people across the globe in an effort to change human behaviors and provoke policy changes to promote a cleaner environment. Some people will march or sign petitions; others will plant trees or clean up their towns and roads.
At this time of year especially, we’re reminded to mind the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. As a breastfeeding mom, you can help care for our planet in some pretty unique ways. Read on to learn how you can contribute to a healthier, greener earth.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place.” By deciding to breastfeed, you’ve already taken a big step toward generating less waste. Unlike formula, breastmilk does not require any processing, packaging, transporting, or advertising. No food is more locally produced, more sustainable, or more environmentally friendly than breastmilk.
While using a breast pump does require extra gear and supplies such as bottles and storage containers, most of these products are reusable and recyclable.
Here are just a few of our favorite products that allow nursing moms to go even greener:
1. Washable nursing pads. Reusable nursing pads such as bamboobies® help disguise leaks without clogging landfills. And these pads are washer- and dryer-friendly—no handwashing here!
2. Milkies Milk-Saver. Taking the reusable nursing pad idea a step further, the Milkies Milk-Saver makes sure nothing goes to waste—including your milk. Just slip the soft, flexible “cup” into your nursing bra on whichever side you are not actively nursing your baby. Then when your milk lets down, any milk that leaks from the non-nursing breast is collected in the Milk-Saver. After you’ve finished a feeding, pour any collected milk into a milk storage container and add it to your fridge or freezer supply. The Milk-Saver may be most useful during the early weeks when leaking is more common.
3. Reusable water bottle. Breastfeeding moms may find they’re thirstier now that they’re nursing, so keeping a water bottle handy at all times can help ensure proper hydration. Quench your thirst and do the planet a favor by ditching the single-use water bottles and opting for a reusable plastic or stainless steel one instead.
While we hope your new breast pump serves you and your baby well for a long time to come, eventually you will have met all your breastfeeding goals and be ready to part ways. We know, we know—you just got your pump and now we’re telling you how to get rid of it! But just tuck this information in the back of your brain for whenever that time comes.
When you’ve finished with your pump, you may feel tempted to pass it along to a friend in need or, if you purchased one of our upgraded pumps, resell it to recoup some of the cost. Our advice? Don’t.
Despite what you may have read elsewhere on the ′net, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers most breast pumps to be single-user devices, including pumps with closed systems. That means a personal-use breast pump should be used by only one person because there is no way to guarantee the pump can be cleaned and disinfected between uses by different women. According to the FDA, “Breast pumps that are reused by different mothers can carry infectious particles, which can make you or your baby sick.”
Also, buying a used breast pump or sharing a pump typically violates the manufacturer’s warranty, so you may not be able to receive help from the company if you have trouble with your pump.
Now that you know not to sell your pump through your neighborhood’s Facebook page, what are you supposed to do with it?
If you own a Medela pump, you can participate in Medela Recycles, the company’s breast pump recycling program. Through Medela’s website, you can arrange to ship your breast pump motor and power cord to a third-party processing center, where the unit will be broken down and recycled appropriately.
If you own a pump by another manufacturer, contact your local recycling center or electronics recycling site to see if they’ll accept your pump.
Plastic parts like flanges, collection bottles, membranes, and milk storage containers can all go in your home’s recycling bin.
Whatever steps you can take now to reduce, reuse, and recycle will go a long way toward protecting our earth not only for you but for your children—and your children’s children—as well.
Beth Miller is a freelance writer/editor living in Northern Virginia and mother of two energetic boys, both of whom were breastfed and can now leap over tall buildings in a single bound.