While breastfeeding in public continues to be a topic of much debate, a new study may convince some opponents to think twice about their opionion. Researchers now say that over 900 lives and $13 billion could be saved each year if all moms in the U.S. were to ditch the formula for their child’s first six months.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at the costs — including both medical care and indirect costs — of several childhood diseases (stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukemia and others) linked to lack of breastfeeding. Researchers compared those costs at the current rate of breastfeeding to what it would cost if 90% of mothers followed their recommendation of nursing for the first six months.
While around 75% of mothers in the U.S. try nursing their infants, only 32% are still nursing exclusively after three months. That number dips even further to 12% of babies still being exclusively breastfed after 6 months.
“People shouldn’t blame mothers because they are often not supported well, even from the moment their babies are born,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, the lead author of the study and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.