When I was pregnant with my first child, I read “Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood“. Having been raised with little concern for the environment, this was THE book that opened my eyes to exactly how significantly environmental pollution effects my life, and the life then growing within my womb. Sandra Steingrabber shares the story of her pregnancy, birth and new motherhood, with complete honesty about the bumps along the way and with humour that really carries the story along. Meandering throughout the tale are scientific insights into the way the environment effects pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. I’d venture to say that most mindful mamas would love the book! It’s an inspiring and empowering story.
I was reminded of “Having Faith” this morning, as I considered sharing with you some depressing news. Scientists have recently learned that dioxin exposure during pregnancy can reduce growth of breast tissue necessary for breastfeeding by about 50%. According to the report, it gets worse: dioxin alters milk-producing genes, resulting in fewer mature lobules and ductal branches which make and deliver milk. So, that means less breast growth and improperly developed milk ducts. Sigh… And we wonder why so many well-meaning mothers struggle to produce enough milk for their babies.
What is dioxin? It’s a chemical bi-product of many manufacturing processes (like bleaching paper and fabrics) and of waste incineration at factories, municipalities and homes. During such processes, dioxin is released into air and water. Humans are exposed routinely when breathing and in some of the healthy foods we eat. Specifically, dioxins tend to build up in the fat of livestock and fish and in the fatty portion of dairy products. But, pregnant women are NOT to attempt to reduce their intake of these healthy foods! Dioxin exposure is also a concern with the use of bleached tampons.
Basically, scientists and health experts are saying there’s little any pregnant woman can do to reduce her personal dioxin exposure immediately. What we CAN do is support legislation that regulates industries and municipal waste incinerators that contribute greatly to the pollution. Also, don’t burn garbage at home, avoid buying bleached products (tampons, disposable diapers, sheets, etc), and reduce waste by recycling and composting.
To read more about the effects of dioxin, see Chemical Stops Breasts from Growing Bigger.