– by Gina Ciagne
A new study came out on Monday in the April issue of Pediatrics that looks to be some the of the strongest evidence we’ve seen showing that breastfeeding isn’t just a nice to — it’s a must do.
Dr. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold’s study, titled, “The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis” finds that:
“If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants.”
What incredible numbers. A multitude of media outlets have covered the study, including CNN. As I wrote in my comment on the article, this is some of the strongest evidence to date that breastfeeding is the best choice not just for our children, but for our society as a whole.
Maybe people could overlook the mounting evidence-based research showing the litany of health benefits for breastfeeding moms and their babies, but that $13 billion figure will hopefully be harder to ignore.
Pair this news with the passage of the health care reform bill, which happily included a workplace breast pumping accommodations mandate, and we might be looking at a turning point for breastfeeding rates. Taking breastfeeding seriously is long overdue in America.
I’m hopeful, and optimistic that this study might finally drive home a point that breastfeeding advocates have been making for decades: It’s vitally important that our society supports as many breastfeeding moms, in as many ways, as possible.
The ultimate in preventative healthcare, breastfeeding offers health benefits that last well beyond infancy. Healthy babies grow into healthy adults with fewer chronic illnesses, conditions, and diseases. And it’s been proved that moms who breastfeed will live happier, healthier lives as well, simply by doing what they were made to do. The ripple effect from all of this leads to economic savings both at the personal and societal level.
We must not let the messages about the importance of breastmilk to babies’ development be diluted. While it’s important to note that there is a suitable artificial alternative for babies who are not breastfed for whatever reason, it’s also imperative that people recognize the very specific differences between breastmilk and artificial baby milk so that they can make an educated decision about how they will nourish their child.
Mixed messages within the infant feeding arena have been confusing to parents. The AAP and its doctors owe it to moms and dads to spread the simple message that breastfeeding will result in lifelong health benefits, while we, as a society, back them up with our own support.
How do we do that? Understand that the best choice is not always the easiest one. Support them at home with encouraging words. Support them at work with the time and place to pump their milk. Support them in public by respecting their choice to feed their baby whenever he’s hungry. Remind them that breastfeeding could make a world of difference in their children’s (and their own) lives.
I hope that the work of Dr. Bartick and Mr. Reinhold will change some people’s minds about breastfeeding. It must be supported and promoted because those breastfed babies grow up into adults who will make our society healthier. As a mom who breastfed and breastpumped while working full time I can tell to you that it is possible … but it should not be selectively possible for just a few.
Author Bio: Gina Ciagne is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and the Director of Breastfeeding and Consumer Relations at Lanisoh Laboratories.