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The Soapbox of Breastfeeding

As a community breastfeeding center, we like to educate the public about breastfeeding. Students from UNL who come to MilkWorks often leave amazed at what they learn about infant nutrition. But we also want to avoid being pushy. Our primary role is to support mothers who want to breastfeed, not tell them what they must do. Success is when we can help mothers navigate the unknowns of breastfeeding.

Every once in a while, a study is released that makes it worthwhile to "get on my soap box" (as my children would say). In 2010, Pediatrics published a cost analysis that drew national attention. Researcher Dr. Melissa Bartick made the case that the US would save $13 billion and prevent 911 deaths per year if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months.

Dr. Bartek and her colleagues are now making a case for the health of mothers. We all know that breastfeeding positively impacts a woman’s health. A new study published in the June 2013 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology shares that low breastfeeding rates result in 4,981 excess cases of breast cancer, 53,847 cases of hypertension, and 13,946 cases of myocardial infarction (heart attacks) per year. This translates into $17.4 billion in costs from premature deaths, $733.7 million in direct costs, and $126.1 million in indirect morbidity costs each year. These numbers are startling!

This information reminds me once again that while we think human milk is really great for babies, moms are also the winners. Overcoming the challenges moms face in those early days and weeks while learning how to breastfeed translates into some big figures and some big outcomes. It makes me smile to know that MilkWorks has a role to play in helping all those sweet little babies have some really healthy moms. It also makes me realize that the costs of not breastfeeding are much bigger than any of us can even imagine.