Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving the health, social and economic development of individuals and nations. Although global breastfeeding initiation rates are relatively high, and despite international recommendations only 40% continue breastfeeding up to 24 months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate solid food for the first year and beyond. Seventy-five % of the mothers start out breastfeeding in United States when their baby is born, and at the end of six months breastfeeding rates fall to 43%, and only 13% by six months.
If people would breastfeed according to the recommendations we could prevent more than 823,000 child deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths each year globally. Not breastfeeding is associated with lower intelligence and results in economic losses of about $302 billion
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and we want to encourage all moms to breastfeed. We hope dads and families support them to promote health for moms and babies. Father norms are changing. Fathers are not only family providers but also are directly involved with mothers and children, which is important for the development of their children.
Breastfeeding protects babies from infections, illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. They are less likely to develop asthma. If an infant is breastfed for six months or longer the child is less likely to become obese. It also helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. For mothers breastfeeding helps them to lose weight, and they have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Economic benefits will help a family save between $1,200 – $1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone. A study published in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90 % of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs.
For both employers and employees, better infant health means fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off to care for sick children and higher productivity. It is a benefit for both families and employers to maintain high-quality lactation support programs for their employees. They can also provide clean places for mothers to breastfeed or pump as needed.
Breastfeeding is known as Nature’s Health Plan. Because it helps physically and economically it also benefits the family emotionally. The bonding between a mother and baby is a strong component in building relationships. Dr. Grantly Dick Reed once stated, “A newborn has three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.”
If anyone is interested in learning more about breastfeeding, taking a class or just has some questions you may call the Fayette County Public Health at 740-335-5910, or the WIC office at 740-333-3552.