In today's Tribune is a wire story about breastfeeding.The results of a study published today in the Journal Pediatrics says if 90% of babies were breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives it could save billions of dollars and 900 babies lives. An article on La Leche League International's web site talks about a different study published in 2009, "a group of infants fed artificial milk had $68,000 in health care costs in a six-month period, while an equal number of nursing babies had only $4,000 worth. In Brazil, where medical care is not readily available, an artificially fed baby is 14 times more likely to die than an exclusively breastfed baby, and at least four times more likely to die than an infant receiving both mother's milk and artificial milk." Why? Because of all the childhood and life time diseases that breast-feeding protects kids from, such as, asthma, diabetes, ear infections and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They don't even factor in the psychological issues for mom, baby and bonding which lead to less postpartum depression, better relationships and less child abuse and neglect.
And that doesn't even factor in the health benefits for the moms! Dr. Alicia Dermer says in an article for La Leche League, "Breastfeeding reduces risk factors for three of the most serious diseases for women-female cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis-without any significant health risks." Choosing to breast-feed will also reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. In another LLL article researcher Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said: "Breastfeeding is an important part of the way women's bodies recover from pregnancy. There are certain hormonal and physiological changes the body expects to go through after pregnancy and when those changes don't happen, that leaves certain body systems in a precarious way. The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them."
This may be new information for some people but the local women who work with nursing moms and babies have known this for many years. I heard about all the health benefits 20 years ago sitting in a breastfeeding class at General Hospital given by Kathleen Huggins. She is our local breastfeeding guru and author of several books on the topic, including one that I referenced often during my nursing era, The Nursing Mother's Companion. She also started the Breastfeeding Warm Line and currently owns Simply Mama in downtown SLO. Understanding the health impact of breastfeeding is one of the reasons the midwives and nurses at General Hospital worked so hard to become Baby Friendly Certified by the World Health Organization. To be certified a hospital must actively promote breastfeeding in their practices and give out no "freebies" from formula companies. Then our other hospitals followed suit and became very pro-breastfeeding. Because of the great local support for breastfeeding in our hospitals and out our county has had a fantastic breastfeeding rate for years. At times we have been at the 90% mark promoted in this new study when women first leave our hospitals.
Breastfeeding is the most important thing you can do for your child's immediate and long term health!
Local Warm Line: telephone help, classes and one-on-one support: 541-Baby.
La Leche League: For the best breast-feeding resources available on the planet
Local La Leche League: group and individual support and counseling
To check out the articles I quoted
Good For Moms Too: What does the April 2009 Journal, Obstetrics and Gynaecology have to say
A Well-Kept Secret: Breast-feeding's Benefits for Mothers
Breastfeeding Saved My Child's Life: One mother's story
Nursing the World Back to Health: A great article about the connection between breast-feeding, the environment and saving our planet