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New Study On Breastfeeding

According to a new study published Monday in the Pediatrics journal, if new moms would breastfeed their babies for their first six months, it would save nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars each year. In the US over 900 preventable deaths occur each year because of falling breastfeeding rates, which are far below medical recommendations, according to this report.

The World Health Organization says infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health. They actually recommend a full year, but six months at the very least.

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 all state that breast milk alone is sufficient for newborns and infants until they are 6 months old. After that, because of increased needs for iron and other nutrients that are not met by breast milk alone, introduction of solids is a good idea.

According to the CDC though, only 74% of women attempt breastfeeding, only 1/3 were still exclusively breastfeeding at three months, and only 14% were still exclusively breastfeeding at six months. According to this study, 95% of premature death in babies are attributed to SIDS, necrotizing enterocolitis (seen primarily in preterm babies), and lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of all of these.

Healthcare costs are increased as a result for parents of babies that are not breastfed. Factor in the cost of formula and income lost of missed days of work to care for sick children, and the cost of choosing not to breastfeed increases even more.

In general, moms need to be better educated about the benefits of breastfeeding. My mother-in-law is not a fan (I’ve been breastfeeding for four months, and she keeps asking me when I’m going to finally stop…”Hasn’t it been long enough?” she often asks me. In her day, all new moms used formula). Nurses in hospitals have been known to suggest formula to “help out” if a new mom is not “making enough milk” (silly, since it can take days for milk to come in, and in the first few days the nutritional needs of babies is very small). You can not during a two or four day hospital stay if you have “enough milk” and supplementing with formula at that point is already setting up the new mom for failure. If baby isn’t trying to breastfeed, mom isn’t being stimulated to start producing milk, and baby is getting used to latching on to a bottle’s nipple instead of mom’s in the meantime, making breastfeeding that much harder and more frustrating.

Ladies, we need to educate new moms! It’s so important to at least try, for a little while, because the benefits are so huge.