Does it Really Matter if I Breastfeed?

Does it Really Matter if I Breastfeed?

Breastfeeding impacts children’s health, women’s health, and our economy. Here's why it is so important for you and your family to make at least 2 visits to Healthcare Providers before giving up on breastfeeding:

Nursing Baby
Image credit: PublicDomainPictures

Impact on Children’s Health

Evidenced-based studies show that children fed formula instead of nursing have higher rates of ear infections, colds and diarrhea.

As these formula-fed children grow, they may develop significantly higher rates of asthma, Type 1 diabetes, acute leukemia, and obesity later in life. In fact, each month of breastfeeding decreases the chance of childhood obesity by 4%. That can really add up!

Impact on Women’s Health

And women who never breastfed their babies have three times more risk of dying from heart attacks or strokes before they reach sixty five than women who breastfed at least once in their lives.

The decrease in mortality is greatest for women who breastfed for 7-12 months. This is likely due to the interactions of oxytocin and the sex hormone prolactin that are secreted during nursing—their beneficial effects, both during your prime birth years and later, too, grow from their mitigation of some of the Mom’s stress hormone secretion and heightened (stress-responding) blood pressure.

Breastfeeding women also have a lower risk of post-partum depression, and they are less likely to develop diabetes or breast or ovarian cancer. For every year of breastfeeding, the chance of a woman developing breast cancer decreases 4%.

Economic Impact of Breastfeeding

Economically, too, breastfeeding is advantageous: Women who follow optimal breastfeeding guidelines save between $1,200 and $1,500 in infant formula costs in just the first year.

A recent study in Pediatrics estimated that if 90% of U.S. families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, the U.S. would save $13 billion annually in reduced medical costs for babies. Mutual of Omaha reported that health care costs for new babies are 3 times lower for babies whose mothers participate in their lactation program and are breastfeeding.

Getting Help With Breastfeeding

Some women truly can’t nurse so, again, I don’t point these things out to say your life will be terrible if you don’t breastfeed. You must live your life as you need to.

But I do want to beg all women to make at least 2 visits to Healthcare Providers before they give up on breastfeeding. Women always doubt themselves, but your baby will be okay for the time it takes you to call a lactation consultant who will come to your home or to dial a La Leche League Leader.

La Leche has a great mother-to-mother forum where you can talk to other breastfeeding moms. You can always (24 hours a day) call the La Leche League Leader in your state. La Leche League Leaders can help mothers and mothers-to-be with all aspects of breastfeeding. They won’t judge you, but they can help you get through that rough first week or two, not just with breastfeeding, but other issues that come up, as well.

- Dr. E

Science can help us nurture and enjoy our sexual selves.


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