According to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, the lack of breastfeeding in the US costs lives and billions of dollars. The study revealed, "The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations."
It is reccommended that infants be exclusively breastfeed for at least the first 6 months of life... by the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study showed that the majority of excess costs incured from the LACK of breastfeeding are due to premature deaths. Nearly all, 95 percent of these deaths, are attributed to three causes: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); necrotizing enterocolitis; and lower respiratory infections. Amazingly, yet not surprisingly, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of these illnesses.
The CDC's 2009 Breastfeeding Report Card reports the National rate of exclusive breastfeeding of infants at 3 months of age to be 33% and exclusive breastfeeding of infants at 6 months of age (the HIGHLY recommended age) to be only 19%! In Ohio, we're below the National averages with 22% of 3-month-old infants exclusively nursing and just 9% of 6-month-old infants exclusively having breast milk.
There are many contributing factors for why a mother chooses to stop nursing: lack of support, misinformation given (by family, friends and even health care workers), premature (in my opinion) return to work (yet so often unavoidable), and so on.
Yet reasons why mothers choose to breastfeed are fairly universal: they want to provide the healthiest, most natural and safest food for their infants.
Even when given incentives through WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)- the federal supplemental nutrition program-, while an increase in breastfeeding may be found, it is typically more important for the mother to have a personal drive to strive toward exclusive breastfeeding. Regardless of a mother's economical status, if a dedication to breastfeeding is there then she will, in most cases, do it.
Sure it has been found that individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to breastfeed and for longer lengths of time, but regardless... if a mama is dedicated and if essential resources are available to her and her baby, such as breastfeeding education (lactation consultants and physicians), and support (family, friends, lactation groups), I believe they will succeed!
Unfortunately, currently systems are not yet entirely in place to fully support breastfeeding. How odd isn't it? That breastfeeding- one of THE most natural and normal acts of human nature- is not supporting in our environment. A tragedy really. Strides are being made to support the art of breastfeeding. WIC recently updated the nutritional program to provide more support (increased peer counselor programs), and larger (and more nutritious!) food packages to nursing mamas. Also, the Health Care Reform Bill has provisions to increase support and ease of breastfeeding (milk expression) for working mamas. This will be crucial in creating an environment that supports nursing working mamas.
For more on this study, check out a great CNN article here.
Happy Nursing Mamas!