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The Benefits Of Breastfeeding Essay

1362 words - 6 pages

Identified by the Surgeon General as “one of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself,” breastfeeding has begun to take form as more of a public health issue than lifestyle choice.1 There is substantial evidence suggesting breastfed infants have decreased risk of infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), celiac disease, childhood inflammatory bowel disease, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), asthma, eczema, obesity, type I diabetes mellitus, and leukemia.2,3 Although cognitive development comparisons of formula-fed versus breastfed children have largely been inconclusive, a 2007 study found breastfed children scored 5.9 IQ points higher than their counterparts.4 Another report proposed better neurodevelopmental outcomes in pre-term infants.2 Breastfeeding has also been shown to confer moderate health benefits for mothers including: more rapid uterine involution, decreased post-partum bleeding, decreased risk of post-partum depression, increased post-partum weight loss, and delayed ovulation.3,4 The maternal protections extend further, decreasing the risk of reproductive cancers, type II diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.4
Moreover, breastfeeding can offer economic protections at both the individual and national level. The federally-funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food, healthcare, and nutrition education resources to low-income pregnant women and mothers, spent nearly 32% of their budget on formula rebates in 2008.5 Examining the costs of WIC food packages, exclusive formula feeding is responsible for 70% of the total cost, totaling nearly $80 million dollars per month.6 A cost analysis based upon a 2007 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) concluded that with 80-90% compliance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, there would be savings of $10.5 to 13 billion dollars per year in disease prevention alone.7 A follow-up report estimated that with 90% medical recommendation fulfillment, consumers would save an additional $3.9 billion dollars in excess formula costs.5 The cost of formula-feeding, both medically and financially, will to continue to grow without intervention.
Due to the well-established benefits of breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) independently recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, followed by complimentary breastfeeding until one year of life and then as mutually decided upon by mother and baby.2,3 The CDC released provisional breastfeeding data for U.S. children born in 2010, indicating 76.5 ± 1.6% were breastfed in early post-partum, 16.4 ± 1.5% were breastfed exclusively through six months, and 27.0 ± 1.8% were breastfed at 12 months.8 Worldwide, UNICEF estimates only 39% of infants are breastfed exclusively through...

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