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Save the Economy By Breastfeeding

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A new study released today suggests that if 90 percent of American moms would breastfeed for the first six months of their baby's life, billions of dollars -- and nearly 1,000 infants -- could be saved each year.

woman breastfeeding

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year due to health problems that breastfeeding can prevent, including ear infections, juvenile diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and even childhood leukemia.

"The health care system has got to be aware that breastfeeding makes a profound difference," says Dr. Ruth Lawrence of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight infections; it also can affect insulin levels in the blood, which may make breastfed babies less likely to develop diabetes and obesity. The study looked at 10 common childhood illnesses and the costs of their treatment, and calculated that the U.S.'s low breastfeeding rate creates an estimated loss of $13 billion. (That number takes into account lost potential lifetime wages.)

Currently, 43 percent of U.S. mothers do at least some breastfeeding for six months, but only 12 percent follow government guidelines recommending that babies receive only breast milk for six months.

One pediatrician called the study "compelling," but was quick to note that encouraging social and workplace acceptance of breastfeeding will go a long way toward improve breastfeeding numbers.

Bottom line: The study authors concluded that breastfeeding should be considered a public health issue -- not a lifestyle choice.

Do you agree? Should more be done to encourage breastfeeding and support moms who do it?

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ameya April 5, 2010, 11:35 AM

Absolutely. I have always been determined to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, but there are so many “Booby Traps” (As the Best For Babes foundation calls them) out there. I have always been constantly hounded about supplementing, my family is convinced I’m starving my kid, my doctors have been trying to shove formula (from the companies that pay them off to push their wares) on us, even though my kid is very strong and healthy. Luckily my hospital was supportive, but it seems like one of the very few, as many undermine breastfeeding (again, they also have deals with formula companies- even I got excessive free samples in the hospital) right from the start. Mom’s really have to fight hard to breastfeed, especially exclusively. Much needs to be done in terms of awareness & support, as offline it’s barely existant at all.

Anonymous April 5, 2010, 3:02 PM


c.s. April 5, 2010, 6:11 PM

Every mother should breast feed, unless they medically cannot. It is your job as a mother to feed your baby, not rely on something that is manufactered to make sure your baby is healthy.
Breastfeeding is natural, and is proven to make your baby healthier, & you can save money in so many ways, by breastfeeding. Why wouldn’t you breast feed??!

Krista April 5, 2010, 7:04 PM

It is a personal choice. I have 2 children and terrible deliveries both times, almost losing my life the first time. I was in so much pain the first time and away in a different hospital for 3 days away from my daughter. THANK GOD their is formula or my daughter would have died. I have a friend who breastfeed both for 12 months and they are sick and in and out of the hospital all the time

Anonymous April 6, 2010, 5:26 AM

Actually it would hurt the economy for every woman to breast feed since on one would be spurring on the economy by buying formula.

What a lame article. Perhaps more women would consider breast feeding if our country actually provided maternity leave to enable woman to try breast feeding.

For me, I personally had zero desire to breast feed, so I didn’t. And like the other poster said my friends who have breast fed have sick babies while mine were totally healthy - never an ear infection, cold, anything. But really, to say it would help the economy - that’s just ridiculous and unfounded.

Anonymous April 6, 2010, 6:07 AM

More pressure on women to breastfeed and more irresponsible journalism…who funded the study that was published in the magazine? Food for thought!

Black Iris April 6, 2010, 7:06 AM

It’s important not to turn studies like this into pressure on moms. Instead we should use the data to demand longer maternity leaves and more support for at-home moms or moms who want to work part-time or from home.

Pencils April 7, 2010, 6:46 PM

It would be wonderful if all women could breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. But reality gets in the way. I desperately wanted to breastfeed, but my breasts had other ideas. There are plenty of women who can breastfeed but don’t produce enough milk to keep their babies satiated and have to supplement. And then there are the many, many women who have to go back to work—like me—and who cannot, logistically, keep pumping at work. Most employers don’t support lactating women. So how about we stop treating women like they’re stupid and don’t know about the benefits of breastfeeding, and start supporting them so they can breastfeed at work, and support them so they don’t feel guilty and unhappy if they can’t produce enough milk or breastfeed at all? Formula isn’t poison. My daughter just had her eighteen month doctor visit, and the doctor was amazed that she had never had a sick baby visit (she’s never been sick other than one mild cold.) My daughter is way ahead of most of her peers both cognitively and physically, and she has a sweet disposition to boot. Eating formula for her first year didn’t do her any harm.

Crystal April 10, 2010, 11:59 AM

Mothers that choose not to breastfeed are selfish! Everyone knows that it is the best for the health and well being of every child and every mother. It’s just to easy for moms to say here you take the baby while I go out and run around. And yes your child might be smart but could he/she be smarter? And yes your child is healthy now but what about later in life at 20, 30, 40, plus. and they are obese, sick, get cancer, ect. because you choose to feed formula. Did you know that the first ingredient in formula is corn syrup solids? Hello people this is sugar! And if it isn’t the first ingredient it’s because formula companies used 3 or 4 different kinds of sugar substitutes? Yes it’s true! It’s just like giving your child white sugar on a spoon with a dab of milk. Please inform yourself! You could be saving your child’s life or even yours by reducing your cancer rate!

Sarah May 12, 2010, 1:34 AM

I absolutely agree and support breastfeeding and the health causes surrounding it. I breastfed my daughter Anna for 2 years and 5 months. She is now 3 years and 6 months and she is just getting over the second illness of her life, the first being 10 months, vomiting, for twenty-four hours, and this illness being for twenty-four hours, 7 hours of which were vomiting and thankfully no fevers. I can only think her ridiculously good health has come from breastfeeding. Even MY illnesses (I’ve managed to get sick at the exact same time both times with her) lasted twice as long.

Breastfeeding. It’s good stuff.

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