Breastfed Babies In Better Health

Experts say that the lives of almost 900 U.S. babies could be saved every year if 90% of their moms would nurse them for their first six months of life. A cost analysis stated that billions of dollars would be saved, as well. These shocking figures were published April 5, 2010 in the journal Pediatrics, though some reviewers have questioned the methods employed by the researchers, rendering the conclusions questionable as well.


As head of the breast-feeding section for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Ruth Lawrence was one of the yea-sayers, "The health care system has got to be aware that breast-feeding makes a profound difference."

The study finds that hundreds of infant deaths and expensive infant illnesses might be avoided through the practice of breastfeeding. Included in this category were stomach viruses, asthma, ear infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, juvenile diabetes, and even childhood leukemia.

Much Underestimated

Lead author of the study, Dr. Melissa Bartick, is an internist and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Bartick feels that the vastness of the health benefits accrued by breastfeeding is very much underestimated. Mothers continue to be advised that breastfeeding is a choice, but Bartick feels it is an imperative as a public health issue.

Breast milk is known to contain antibodies that can help babies to ward off infections. Nature's most perfect infant food can also help to regulate the levels of insulin in the bloodstream, which makes infants less likely to later develop juvenile diabetes and obesity.

Lost Income

Bartick's study looked at the preponderance of 10 common childhood ailments, the costs involved in their treatment, plus the exact level of protection from disease that could be expected as a result of breastfeeding based on the results of earlier studies in the field. The cost analysis cited $13 billion dollars as an estimate of losses due to moms choosing the bottle over the breast. This calculation includes the loss of the potential lifetime incomes of those babies who didn't survive. This estimate comes to $10.56 million per death.

The methods employed in this study were similar to those used in an oft-quoted government report which claimed that $3.6 billion might be saved on an annual basis if half of all new mothers would breastfeed their babies for six months. Since this time, the costs of medical care have undergone a great increase while breastfeeding rates have seen only a slight increase.

While 70% of new mothers start out breastfeeding their babies, only 33% of them continue to breastfeed exclusively at three months, and only 14% are still hanging in with exclusive breastfeeding by the sixth month.