Breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of his or her life is not just kind to your wallet, it helps your country save money.
A new study published in the current issue of Pediatrics says that if 90% of American mothers nursed their babies exclusively for the first six months, it would save the nation $13 billion each year in medical cost. That's not all. It would also save more than 900 babies from dying each year. The savings include the direct costs of medical care and related expenses, such as parents' time away from work to care for a sick child
Even if 80% of American moms adhered to the breastfeeding guidelines, the savings would be $10.5 billion and 741 deaths a year would be prevented, the study says. The cost-saving analysis doesn't come as a big surprise. A prior government study suggested a potential savings of $3.6 billion if 50% of mothers nursed their babies for the first six months. Breastfeeding can help prevent costly hospital visits related to stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and even childhood leukemia. Moreover, breastfed babies are also less likely to be obese or diabetic. Yet, although 43% of U.S. mothers do at least some breast-feeding for six months, only 12% follow government guidelines recommending that babies receive only breast milk for six months.
So, why such deplorable numbers? According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, a working mom's separation from her child is one of the biggest challenges. Nearly 4 out of 10 American families have a woman as the primary breadwinner, and employers often do not offer a clean, private space for nursing moms to express milk at regular intervals. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Immunization Survey indicates that nearly 75% of women initiate breastfeeding, but those rates plummet at six months and 12 months.
The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years and beyond. There are countries in Europe and Asia championing that recommendation. Hopefully, we in America will inch toward similar goals in the future.