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Report: Breast Feeding Could Save Lives

April 5, 2010

Breast feeding could save lives–not to mention billions of dollars–if nine out of 10 mothers would adopt the practice for the first six months of their infants’ lives, claims a new study.

“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,” a CNN article quotes the report as claiming.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School, led by Dr. Melissa Bartick, studied 10 different childhood illnesses in terms of infection rate, treatment cost, and level of protection in relationship to breast feeding. Their findings suggest that following government recommendations of feeding babies nothing but breast milk for the first sixth months of their lives can help prevent health problems ranging from stomach viruses and ear infections to diabetes, SIDS and childhood leukemia.

The reason that over 900 babies could be saved annually, according to Bartick’s findings, is because of antibodies contained in mother’s milk that can help battle infections and maintain insulin levels.

Furthermore, the findings, which were published on Monday in the online journal Pediatrics, estimate that potential lost lifetime wages of deaths related to this issue could total $13 billion.

According to an April 5 article by Associated Press medical writer Lindsey Tanner, “About 43 percent of U.S. mothers do at least some breast-feeding for six months, but only 12 percent follow government guidelines recommending that babies receive only breast milk for six months.”

The benefits of breast feeding have been reviewed by scientists on multiple occasions throughout the years. A 1999 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study showed a link between breast feeding and intelligence, showing that bottle-fed children scored an average of three to five points lower on IQ tests than breast fed youths.

According to the KidsHealth.org website, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend breast-feeding because it helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions.”

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