I love breastfeeding my kids. As a doctor, I know the science shows the health benefits of breastfeeding to be almost miraculous. And as a mom, it’s a bonding time, a time to just take a break to hold and love my babies. I guess both reasons are why I’m still nursing my almost 2-year-old. He’s my last, and we both enjoy the time together, especially when he’s sick, tired, or just needs comforting. I feel bad for my mom who had fight public opinion to breastfeed us when we were kids (the 1970’s). Back the, many considered formula to be more scientific, cleaner, and perfect.
Well, the number crunchers finally put together a new pediatric study to figure out how much money we could save if 90% of mothers would breastfeed for the first 6 months of life. They added up the costs of all the illnesses that could be decreased by breastfeeding, along with the loss of lifetime earning from the almost 900 babies a year whose lives would be saved by breastfeeding. The answer = 13 billion dollars.
Here’s their list of illnesses that are decreased or prevented by breastfeeding.
- stomach viruses
- ear infections
- juvenile diabetes
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- childhood leukemia
I guess my point is that while many consider breastfeeding a lifestyle choice, we should be more aware of the phenomenal health benefits it offers. How much is that worth to you and your baby? And even if a mom initially has trouble breastfeeding, a lactation consultant or the experienced advice from a La Leche League member can make all the difference.
Before you object, I know there are some who are unable to breastfeed. I’m not criticizing them. It’s just that many women who choose formula simply for convenience or personal preference have no idea the health benefits they are giving up.
Benefits of breastfeeding: A few, but by no means all of them:
- Babies are more resistant to disease and infection.
- Babies have a 3 times lower chance of being hospitalized with a severe lung infections.
- Babies have 3-4 times lower incidence of diarrheal diseases.
- Babies have lots fewer ear infections, which means less antibiotics and all their side effects, like thrush and diarrheal problems.
- Babies have less type 1 diabetes.
- Less SIDS
- Less eczema and allergies. It especially helps babies whose parents have allergies.
- Childhood cancer is eight times lower in babies breastfed exclusively for 6 months.
- Less disease = less likely to die.
- Breastfed babies develop fewer cavities over their lives.
- If you’re breastfed exclusively for the first 3 months of your life, you are 20 – 30% less likely to become obese. (in America only about 12% breastfeed exclusively for 6 months)
- Breastfed babies have higher IQ and increased cognitive development.
- Babies have fewer psychological, behavior, and learning problems.
- You’re less likely to have heart disease and you’ll average a lower blood pressure if you were breastfed as an infant.
- Mothers are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life.
- Mothers are more able to lose pregnancy weight.
- The hormone released during nursing, oxytocin, helps mom’s uterus return to normal size more quickly, which decreases postpartum bleeding and hemorrhaging.
- Mothers have a lower risk of breast, uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancer.
- It helps mom’s emotional health, building a stronger connection to baby, and fewer feelings of anxiety.
- It’s cheaper! About $800 a year, cheaper.
- It’s cheaper for society – one study showed a group of nursing babies having $4,000 in health care costs versus $68,000 for an equal number of formula-fed babies.
- Etc., etc.
It’s really an amazing list! Did you have any idea? I know I didn’t. Do most women? I wish more women and more doctors knew this information and would share it widely.
What do you think about breastfeeding? You’re welcome to leave a link to something you’ve written on the subject.
- Babycenter article on the benefits of breastfeeding
- Wikipedia article on breastfeeding
- NRDC breastfeeding benefit article