An article published online last week in the journal Pediatrics suggests that $13 billion and over 900 infants’ lives could be saved if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months.
According to the most recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is beneficial to the health of both the mother and child. It may decrease rates of ovarian and breast cancer among women and bone-related injuries and diseases. The AAP recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, and non-exclusively breastfed for the first year and beyond as desired.
In this study, the authors undergo a cost analysis using data from previous studies. They calculated the approximate number of infants that are breastfed and the number that are not exclusively breastfed using data from a 2005 CDC survey. Then, they looked at a collection of diseases for which a lower risk has been reported for exclusively breastfed infants and the associated health costs for those diseases. The study did not look at every disease associated with breastfeeding, and in particular left out type 2 diabetes because of insufficient data. The overall conclusion shows that the US incurs billions of dollars in excess costs due to the
At the end of the day, breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice. However, given its health benefits, it should be a more accessible option for women who do prefer to breastfeed their children. Not every mother-child pair is capable of breastfeeding, but those that are should be able to do so without excessive inconvenience. Today, many women are unable to breastfeed their infants due to inadequate maternity leave, inability to take time off of work, and insufficient access to counseling about lactation. Additionally, healthcare providers often fail to inform women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and are unable to give women practical advice regarding breastfeeding.
Increasing support services for breastfeeding could save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, which could be directed towards saving additional lives.
By Zarah Iqbal, Policy Intern