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Study: Breastfeeding Saves Lives and Money

By sandymaple |

breastfeeding-sm250In 2001, a government study found that if only half of all mothers breastfed their babies for the first six months of their lives, $3.6 billion could be saved each year. The savings weren’t calculated based on how much infant formula would not be needed, but on health care costs related to illnesses breast milk may help prevent.

Today, an updated study takes those calculations a step further and reveals not only how much money could be saved by breastfeeding, but how many lives as well. 

The study, which appears in the new issue of the journal Pediatrics, has been adjusted for the increased cost of health care and includes indirect costs such as time missed from work.  The results indicate that breastfeeding could save $13 billion per year as well as the lives of over 900 children. The catch?  90 percent of mothers would have to follow current medical recommendations and breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of their lives.

Statistics show that while about 43% of new mothers do breastfeed at least some of the time for the first six months of life, only 12% follow government guidelines and breastfeed exclusively.

Dr. Larry Gray, a University of Chicago pediatrician, says that while he believes we should strive for a 90% breastfeeding rate, he cautions that mothers who don’t should not be made to feel guilty.  After all, the world isn’t always friendly toward a breastfeeding mother.

That, says lead study author Dr. Melissa Bartick, needs to change.  She believes breastfeeding should be considered a public health issue and points to some small changes as evidence that it is being taken more seriously. For example, the recent health care overhaul requires large employers to provide private areas for mothers to pump breast milk.  In addition, hospitals, which often whisk newborns away to be bottle fed, may now be evaluated on their efforts to ensure that babies are breastfeed exclusively while in the hospital.

Those are steps in the right direction, but as well all know one of the biggest obstacles a breastfeeding mother faces occurs the moment she and her baby leave the house.  The idea that breastfeeding should be hidden from view and done only behind closed doors is absurd.  Hopefully, this study will give more mothers the courage to do what they know is best for their babies and silence those who would seek to keep discriminate against them.

Image: christyscherrer/Flickr

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0 thoughts on “Study: Breastfeeding Saves Lives and Money

  1. JEssica says:

    “The idea that breastfeeding should be hidden from view and done only behind closed doors is absurd.” This is a huge difference of opinion in the US about public breastfeeding. And right now the public sentiment is you don’t breastfeed in public. I don’t think this is going to change any time soon.

  2. TC says:

    I agree that breastfeeding doesn’t need to be hidden. I used to do it (discretely) at first. I’ve never had a sneer or neg. comment. I did what was comfortable, what my husband and companions were comfortable with, etc.

    I actually did it once in the kids section of a library (in a quiet comfortable corner). I had an older lady (grandma type) come to me and said “good job for nursing in public! My generation couldn’t”. We’ve come a long way, but not far enough, IMHO

  3. Melanie says:

    TC, I’ve had a similar experience, when an older woman said almost the exact same thing.

  4. meh says:

    I honestly don’t get it. I have seen and have myself breastfed in public. I did it anytime, anywhere, at length and with a large (over 2) child. Maybe I just have a mean face or something, but nobody ever bothered me. Is it possible, perhaps, that people are imagining, just a little, some of this hostility?

  5. Rachel Silber says:

    “The idea that breastfeeding should be hidden” pales as a disincentive to 6 months of breast feeding compared to oh, for example, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave (including time before the baby is born) if you happen to work for a company covered by the Family Leave Act.

  6. meh says:

    Yeah, and FMLA is not “paid” leave…its unpaid. I am all for unpaid leave, personally…but they need to allow for a longer period. I don’t think companies should have to pay you for work you’re not doing, but there should be job security. Maybe even a program that you could pay into, like a 401K, that could help bolster finances while on said leave.

  7. Voice of Reason says:

    I don’t think companies whould have to pay you for work you’re not doing either; I think the *government* should be providing paid maternity leave.

    The results of the studies quoted clearly demonstrate that this could start paying for itself in terms of health costs and outcomes, so clearly this is an opportunity for the US to catch up with the rest of the developed world.

  8. Samantha says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for reporting this study in a positive way toward mothers. Most outlets I have seen this afternoon have shared the news in the typical “you selfish mothers are killing your babies!” sense. As usual I appreciate Strollerderby’s measured take. Just waiting for the comments to go to Hell now :-)

  9. Triplemom says:

    You know what strikes me s funny? I live in the third world and breastfeeding is so the norm tha no one ever even bats an eye at the sight of a woman popping out a boob to feed a kid, in fact the opposite is true, people will look at you frowning if you´re bottle feeding an infant.

  10. [...] By now, I think we can all agree that breastfeeding is good. It is good for mothers. It is good for babies. It is even good for your bank account. [...]

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