The Lack of Breastfeeding is Costing Lives

Breastfeeding is an extremely personal decision between mother and child. This is first and foremost must be recognized as we begin this discussion. There is ongoing research that is showing that the lack of breastfeeding is costing lives.

Recent studies have concluded that almost 1000 deaths per year could theoretically be avoided by simple breastfeeding alone.  Therefore, these deaths have been referred to as “Preventable Deaths“.

The cost associated due to  the lack of breast feeding is alarming and eye opening. It has been calculated that over $13 billion dollars annually could be saved by following simple steps of breastfeeding.

Often, for some women, the lack of breastfeeding can result in personal feelings of anxiety and guilt. Women choose to stop breast feeding because of a variety of very noteworthy reasons including:  medication restrictions, anxiety, Postpartum Depression, biting, pain, and others are not necessarily the central theme of this blog article.

Others however are choosing to stop breastfeeding for reasons including:  lack of instruction, common misunderstandings about breastfeeding, sleep, comfort, employment, and others .  Breast feeding is losing steam and many are beginning to question its importance.

Breastfeeding is a very personal choice by the mother and should remain personal.  But saving 1000 preventable deaths per year should require us to take another look at the importance of breastfeeding.

A new study that was recently published in the “Journal Pediatrics” confirms the new findings. It states, “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.”

Often the main question of breastfeeding is for how long?  Several organizations have agreed that 6 months is the key age to achieve the growth expected and the proper anticipated health development.

Those who agree include: the WHO, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, the CDC, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Hospitals are recommended to push breastfeeding and its benefits to all new mothers. Skin-to-skin contact is essential to help initiate breastfeeding and suckle by the infant. Emotional connection is also felt for many mothers.

The lack of breastfeeding can obviously have other consequences than those mentioned.

Average Breast Feeding Rates:

  –  74% of women start breastfeeding
  –  33% are exclusively breastfeeding after 3 months
  –  14% are exclusively breastfeeding after 6 months

Infant Deaths

Caused by 3 main illnesses:

1.)  SIDS [Sudden infant death syndrome]
2.)  Necrotizing enterocolitis
3.)  Lower Respiratory infections, Other Lung infections [including Pneumonia] and Respiratory Failure

Breastfeeding has been shown to improve or reduce the risk of these 3 main causes of infant death. It should be noted that in many cases these are preventable deaths. During the study in addition to these three, seven other illness are also improved by breastfeeding.

What costs are included?

*** Cost of formula was not included

1.) Cost related to death
2.) Direct cost of hospitalization and other health care
3.) Parent’s time missed from work.

What Prevents Breastfeeding?

1.) Not Enough Time
2.) Not Enough Sleep
3.) Employment
4.) Formula may be easier
5.) Breast discomfort
6.) Previous bad experience
7.) Recommendations from family members

What needs to be done:

1.) Increase breastfeeding awareness
2.) Increase awareness in mothers and grandmothers of new mothers about importance of breastfeeding
3.) Increase hospital teaching and timing of breastfeeding
4.) Breast pumps can help mother use breast milk at times of discomfort, fatigue, work, or others

In the end, breastfeeding is personal and no one should push us to do something we are uncomfortable with.   But for those willing to attempt breastfeeding, we hope that hospitals improving teaching opportunities with newborns and their parents.

They must take the appropriate amount of time to show all mothers how to properly breastfeed.  There is little more frustrating to a new mother than feeling inadequate when trying to feed your child.  Often that frustration turns into switching to formula and other options.

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