Letter to the Editor: Breastfeeding encouraged for healthy babies
All private and government health agencies recommend breast milk for infants because of the significant benefits to a baby's health. Breastfeeding may also result in significant savings for the nation. One estimate from a U.S. Surgeon General candidate projected that U.S. families and healthcare payers could save $3.6 billion a year if babies received breast milk at recommended levels for only 12 weeks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has estimated that 21 percent of infant deaths under six months of age could be prevented if babies received any breast milk. They recommend six months of exclusive breast milk for infants, and complementary foods added to the breast milk until at least one year of age. However, only 73 percent of infants in the U.S. receive any breast milk, and only 39 percent are still receiving any breast milk at six months of age.
In 2007 the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology released a statement calling on all healthcare providers and employers to support women who choose to breastfeed: "Despite the development of modern formula, there is no substitute for human milk. The extensive epidemiological, biochemical, immunological and bacteriologic virology research....has established that breastfed children have fewer infectious diseases, less serious infections, fewer hospitalizations, and improved motor and mental development. Women who breastfeed also benefit from lactation with reduced post partum blood loss, pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and hip fractures."
While each mother makes her own individual decision of whether to breastfeed, the differences in health outcomes should be strongly considered. An excellent source of information about breastfeeding can be found at www.breastfeedingbasics.org.