Breastfeeding could protect babies and their mothers from premature death and serious diseases a new study published online in Maternal & Child Nutrition finds. The study underscores the importance of allowing mothers paid leave to take care of their babies. Allowing babies to breastfeed could save the US alone more than $4.3 billion in health care and related costs.
The recommended time for breastfeeding is for a total of one year and exclusively for six months.
“Currently, 22 percent of employed mothers return to work within 10 days of birth,” senior author Dr. Alison Stuebe said. “Paid leave keeps mothers and babies together, which is essential for breastfeeding. Enacting paid family leave will impact the lifelong health of women and children.”
Breastfeeding helps prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, yet many women have no idea breastfeeding has any of these benefits.
Enabling the ability to follow through with the optimal breastfeeding time would prevent 2619 maternal deaths and 721 child deaths annually.
“Breastfeeding has long been framed as a child health issue, however it is clearly a women’s health issue as well,” said study co-author Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz. “Breastfeeding helps prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, yet many women have no idea breastfeeding has any of these benefits.”
The vast majority (80%) of premature deaths were maternal due to breast cancer, pre-menopausal ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart attacks. So what has previously been framed as a child health issue is as much a woman’s health issue.
“Breastfeeding is far more beneficial in preventing disease and reducing costs than previously estimated,” said lead author Dr. Melissa Bartick, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance. “The results should compel all hospitals to develop programs aimed at helping new moms learn to breastfeed their babies.”