A new study published today in the journal Pediatrics showed that
breastfeeding newborns during their first six months could save almost
1,000 lives and billions of dollars annually. According to CNN, the
United States accumulates $13 billion in excess costs and suffers
around 911 deaths per year because breastfeeding rates fall far below
what is medically recommended.
The World Health Organization recommends that infants should be
exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life "to achieve
optimal growth, development, and health." Additionally, the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of
Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that breast milk alone is
sufficient for infants up until the six month mark.
Despite these recommendations, a breastfeeding report card from the
CDC found that not only do a mere 74% of women even start
breastfeeding, but only 33% were still exclusively breastfeeding at
six months, and only 14% continued onto six months.
Dr. Melissa Bartick, one of the new study's co-authors, said to CNN
that a huge portion of these incurred costs could be saved "if 80 to
90 percent of women exclusively breastfed for as little as four months
and if 90 percent of women would breastfeed some times until six
Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risks of many diseases and
infant problems, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS);
necrotizing enterocolitis, which is when the lining of the intestinal
wall dies and is seen mostly in preterm babies; and lower respiratory
infections such as pneumonia.
There are numerous factors that contribute to the low breastfeeding
rate in the United States, and they cannot all be blamed on the
mothers themselves. New moms often receive mixed messages about how
long to breastfeed, as wells as the importance of this practice.
However, since we are now learning more and more that breastfeeding is
the safest and healthiest option for our children, it is extremely
vital that mothers become educated about it and don't turn straight to
baby formula as generations before us have.