Human Milk is a Human Right

Many conversations around lactation and human milk focus on individual factors: individual support, individual preferences, and individual barriers. But as one of my favorite lactation equity leaders, Kimberly Seals Allers often shares “Women/people don’t breastfeed, cultures do.” This couldn’t be a more accurate assessment. Lactation and human milk access is a societal issue that all of us should care about, regardless of your personal beliefs, preferences, or involvement with lactation. Even if you specifically choose not to breast/chestfeed, this conversation is for you, too! Here’s why I believe #HumanMilkIsAHumanRight:

Human milk access is a racial justice  issue. Lactation was used as a tool for oppression during the era of enslavement where Black enslaved parents were forced to breastfeeding the offspring of their oppressors, denying their own babies access to their milk. Now, current systems of oppression continue to create barriers for Black parents to sustain lactation (https://blackbreastfeedingweek.org/why-we-need-black-breastfeeding-week/)  

Human milk access is a family equity issue. Not all family structures include a primary lactating parent. But what if we lived in a society where human milk was readily accessible through nonprofit milk banking and community milk sharing? Equity for trans and queer families, adoptive families, surrogate families, and all family structures demands creative solutions to human milk access so those parents who desire to feed their baby human milk have easy, free, and equitable access to this gold standard of nutrition.

Human milk access is a climate action issue. It is estimated that increasing breast/chestfeeding would reduce emissions to an equivalent of removing 50,000-77,000 cars off the road, through reductions in emissions from formula’s dairy industry, transportation, production, and waste. Simultaneously, being able to feed your baby with your body is the best disaster preparedness plan that parents can have, rather than being vulnerable to the increasingly common scenarios of contaminated water sources and climate refugee displacement.

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