New research highlights the economic advantages of exclusive and continued breastfeeding in rich and poor countries alike, and the enormous cost of failing to support it writes Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General.
As a young doctor working with refugees in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, I saw how breastfed babies can prosper even under such challenging circumstances, and even when they are sick or small. So I am delighted that new research published today in The Lancet again confirms the health benefits of breastfeeding.
The findings show that breastfed infants are more likely to thrive physically and mentally into adulthood. Breastfeeding should be exclusive for at least the first six months of life and then with a mix of other foods, ideally up to the age of two. The authors — a team of independent scientists, together with the World Health Organization and UNICEF — also conclude that the health benefits are as significant in rich countries as in poor ones.
Breast is best: benefits worldwide for moms and tots
The message that “breast is best” applies equally the world over, and to children as well as mothers. Longer durations of breastfeeding improve maternal health by increasing birth spacing, and saves thousands of lives every year from reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
According to The Lancet series, improved rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding could prevent:
~820,000 deaths in children under 5 years annually
~20,000 additional deaths from breast cancer annually (even at current rates, 20,000 deaths are averted)
~Ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes for some mothers.
A less familiar finding is that higher rates of breastfeeding could also pay enormous economic dividends. Purely in terms of reduced healthcare costs due to improved breastfeeding practices, the study projects total savings of more than US$300 million in the US, UK, Brazil and urban China alone. These add to the other economic benefits associated with breastfeeding, such as higher IQ, greater school attainment and higher salary in later years. These economic findings are yet another brick in the now imposing wall of evidence that supports the case for exclusive breastfeeding. READ MORE
The Theology of the Body points out that our bodies are given to us so that we can work for the good of others. In order to be truly fulfilled in our life and relationships we need to ask God how he would want us to use our bodies to serve others. God gives breastmilk to the mother to be held in trust for the baby. When mothers faithfully respond to that trust, both mom and baby benefit on so many levels. In Parenting with Grace and Then Comes Baby, my wife and I offer ways moms can get the information and support they need to create a healthy and mutually nurturing breastfeeding relationship with their little ones. Discover how breastfeeding isn’t an obligation or a cross, but a blessing for you and baby!