Study Reveals Breastfeeding Can Save Lives and Billions in Health Care Costs

A study published in the journal Pediatrics yesterday reveals breastfeeding can prevent more than 900 infant deaths each year and save an additional $13 billion in health care costs. According to US News & World Report, 95 percent of infant deaths cited in the study are a result of Sudden Infant Death (SIDS), respiratory infections such as pneumonia, and necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in pre-term infants. Risk for these ailments is nearly eliminated if mothers breastfeed their infants until at least six months after birth. The study demonstrated that although 75 percent of US mothers breast-feed at first, only 32 percent continue to do so after three months, and only 12 percent are breast-feeding after six months. However, according to the Office of Women’s Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services, human breast milk contains vitamins and antibodies essential to an infant’s health. This milk is easily digested by the infant’s developing stomach, unlike formula, which contains cow’s milk. Mothers may save between $1,160 and $3,915 every year, depending on the formula brand, if they breast-feed instead. The US News & World Report reported that study author Dr. Melissa Bartick, also of the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, said in a news release, “People shouldn’t blame mothers because they are often not supported well, even from the moment their babies are born.” Bartick explained other factors preventing mothers from breast-feeding, which include limited social, cultural and workplace support, along with the aggressive marketing of baby formula. According to the Office of Women’s Health, breastfeeding can benefit both mothers’ and infants’ health. Infants have a lower risk of contracting ear infections, stomach viruses, respiratory infections, atopic dermatitis, obesity, type 1 and type 2 Diabetes, childhood leukemia, SIDS and other health problems. Mother benefit through a lower risk of type 2 Diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and Postpartum Depression (PPD).


US News & World Report 4/5/10; Office of Women's Health 2/27/09

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