It’s long been conventional wisdom that breastfeeding is the single most important thing that mothers can do for their infants, in terms of disease prevention and encouraging healthy growth—but that wisdom is fraught with anxiety and debate about how vital breastfeeding, how long it should be done and the magnitude of the promised health benefits. A new study from the journal Pediatrics quantifies those health benefits, finding that the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90% of U.S. women fed their babies breast milk only for the first six months of life. The findings suggest that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year from health problems that breastfeeding may help prevent. Only 12% of mothers follow government guidelines recommending that babies breast feed exclusively for the first six months—should breastfeeding become a national health policy priority?
Dr. Melissa Bartick, internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and lead author of the breastfeeding study published in the journal Pediatrics