This week more than 170 countries will celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week positively educates, encourages and supports women to breastfeed their children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ʺ75 percent of new mothers, or three out of four mothers, in the U.S. start out breastfeeding.ʺ
UNICEF states, ʺbreastfeeding is directly linked to reducing the death toll of children under five, yet only 36 percent of infants below the age of six months in developing countries are exclusively breastfed.ʺ
Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, said, ʺWith so much at stake, we need to do more to reach women with a simple, powerful message: Breastfeeding can save your baby’s life. No other preventive intervention is more cost effective in reducing the number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthdays.ʺ
Also, UNICEF revealed, ʺthe benefits of breastfeeding could lead to a 13 percent reduction in deaths of children under five if infants were exclusively breastfed for 6 months and continued to be breastfed up to one year.ʺ
There are economic benefits as well as health benefits to breastfeeding. According to the Office of the Surgeon General, economic benefits of breastfeeding include:
• Per family, an annual $1,200–$1,500 savings (cost of baby formula)
• $13 billion dollar annual reduction in medical and other costs, if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfeed for six months
• Healthier infants mean less health insurance claims
• Less employee time off to care for sick children and higher employee productivity
• Health care costs for newborns are three times lower for babies whose mothers participate in a company’s employee maternity and lactation program
In a statement regarding World Breastfeeding Day, Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin said, ʺThe decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and a mother should not be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed. But given the importance of breastfeeding for the health and well-being of mothers and children, we need to do what we can to help mothers who want to breastfeed to do so successfully.ʺ
Some health benefits of breastfeeding, revealed by the Department of Health and Human Services include:
• Breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
• Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses like diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia
• Children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese
• Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma
• Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers
Also, Mr. Lake summed up the benefits of breastfeeding perfectly. He said, “Breastfed is best fed, whether the baby is born in Uganda or England, China or Canada.”
In a press release, Dr. Flavia Bustreo, World Health Organization Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, said, “Protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding is important because, even though breastfeeding is natural, it is also a learned behavior.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health offers a free breastfeeding hotline in Spanish and English. Trained breastfeeding peer counselors are available to discuss breastfeeding questions. Counselors are available Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., EST. The hotline number is 1.800.994.9662.
Reviewed August 2, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle