It seems like reducing our healthcare spending is on everyone’s minds these days. Want to know a good way to cut our costs while simultaneously creating a major win for today’s babies and families?
The solution sounds simple enough: If 90% of American babies were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives, we could save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs and save nearly a thousand lives (mostly infants) each year! This is the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics.1
Amazing statistic, isn’t it? How is that even possible, you might ask?
Breastfeeding helps establish babies’ immune systems and is protective against a wide variety of infections, especially diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. In addition, breastfeeding helps decrease the incidence of many other serious conditions that can lead to chronic health problems, expensive hospitalizations, and sometimes even death: asthma, atopic dermatitis, SIDS, type I diabetes mellitus, childhood leukemia, and childhood obesity. There are health benefits for mothers who breastfeed, too, including lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer.
Human milk can serve as a complete source of babies’ nutrition during their first six months of life. They don’t need any formula or baby food at all. But, although 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding their babies, by the time babies reach six months of age, only 13.3% of their mothers are still giving them only breast milk.
The Surgeon General has just issued a “Call to Action” with numerous ideas on what can be done to help make breastfeeding easier for all mothers. Recommendations include providing support and education to both parents about the benefits of breastfeeding, strengthening community resources that promote exclusive breastfeeding, improving healthcare workers’ knowledge and support of breastfeeding, and encouraging workplaces to become more accommodating towards women who desire to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
The goal of the government’s Healthy People campaign is for at least 50% of mothers to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. It would be a great win for America’s babies and children if we could meet and even exceed that goal; as a society we would win by reaping huge economic savings.
You can read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding here.
1Bartick M & Reinhold A. “The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis.” Pediatrics 2010;125:e1048-e1056.