The Imperative of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the best way to go…

Breastfeeding has far-reaching, lasting effects, affecting the lifelong health of both the mother and her child. The nutritious components of breast milk provide crucial immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the child against acquiring a host of illnesses and diseases, as well as improving maternal health outcomes. Although, breastfeeding rates in the United States have increased over the last few years, they still fall far short of Healthy People objectives 2010. Now, the Healthy People 2020 objectives, including an overall objective of 81 percent of infants ever being breastfed, are consistent with the universal medical recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for six months with continued breastfeeding for at least one year. Breastfeeding is an essential public health strategy to improve infant and child morbidity and mortality rates, improve maternal morbidity, and assist in controlling the cost of health care.

Economic Benefits to Breastfeeding

Infant formula costs the average family in the United States between $1,200 – $1,500 annually. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a minimum of $3.6 billion in medical expenses per year would be saved if 50 percent of children were breastfed for the first six months. If 90 percent of children in the United States were exclusively breastfeed for six months, an estimated $13 billion annually could be saved from reduced direct and indirect medical expenses.

What are the health benefits of breast milk?

The health benefits of breast milk for children are unparalleled. Breast milk not only contains immunological properties that protect a newborn, but research has shown that the overall risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is twice as great for formula-fed infants compared with breastfed infants. The widespread health benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond their child’s first few months of life. Children that are breastfed experience an overall 72 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization due to lower respiratory tract diseases. There are numerous health benefits, listed on Table 1.

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