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Make Breast Feeding Easier: Surgeon General Issues Call to Action

How many American women breastfeed their babies? Three out of four mothers (75 percent) in the U.S. start out breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card. At the end of six months, breastfeeding rates fall to 43 percent, and only 13 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed.

What are the health benefits of breastfeeding? Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma and children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Are there economic benefits of breastfeeding? Families who follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200Ė$1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone. A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would save $13 billion a year from reduced medical and other costs. For both employers and employees, better infant health means fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off to care for sick children, and higher productivity. Mutual of Omaha found that health care costs for newborns are three times lower for babies whose mothers participate in the companyís employee maternity and lactation program.

What can policymakers do? Support small nonprofit organizations that promote breastfeeding in African-American communities. Support compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Increase funding of high-quality research on breastfeeding. Support better tracking of breastfeeding rates as well as factors that affect breastfeeding.

What can we all do? Letís start by getting a grip. Breastfeeding is natural and healthy for mothers and babies. Numerous studies have pounded the message home. Breast is best! Women who can and want to breastfeed deserve to be met with support from the medical community, their families, and from society as a whole. It’s just common sense.

Breastfeeding Resources

Source for Statistics: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Image used under Creative Commons License with thanks to crz

Writer Ann Pietrangelo is a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Authorís Guild. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Read more: Babies, Community, Diet & Nutrition, Do Good, Family, General Health, Health, Life, Make a Difference, Natural Remedies, News & Issues, Women's Health, , , , ,

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9:41AM PDT on May 18, 2011

Odd Wheelz: did you know there are actually federal laws that protect breastfeeding mothers' rights to breastfeed in any public place? I find you to be a very rude person.

9:38AM PDT on May 18, 2011

All the women in my family are HUGE breastfeeding advocates--and its amazing how ignorant the general public is on an issue that was status quo for thousands of years--only very recently in history has there even been an option that didnt include breastfeeding. I mean for thousands of years if you didnt breastfeed your child (1 in a million I'm sure) then you had a wet nurse to breastfeed your child. Breastfeeding was the ONLY option, and obviously so. Free, perfectly portable, the perfect nutrition for your baby, immunosupportive; the most natural, built in mechanism for healthy babies.

5:51PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011


6:53PM PST on Mar 3, 2011

If you want to nurse your baby by all means do so. I just dont want to share that experience with you. It can be done discretely

12:58PM PST on Mar 3, 2011

When the child is hungry you must be able to feed that child.

4:20PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

Hear, hear!!!

11:26AM PST on Feb 3, 2011

If one mother wants to breast feed her child, go for it ! just PLEASE do it with style, meaning: PUT a blanket over! Thanks. No free-shows!!!

8:18AM PST on Feb 2, 2011

it would be nice to have a quiet space for breastfeeding mothers and infants that are not in bathrooms.

9:22PM PST on Jan 27, 2011

Deanna, Ernie: Having a B.M. is natural too. Do you want to see it done in public? Did you know if you urinate outdoors in Colorado (and get caught) you can be arrested as a "sex offender/predator" and have to register? Where do we draw the line?

2:47AM PST on Jan 27, 2011

Any woman has the right to breast feed their baby any where they damn well please. Babies have the right to eat in public whether they are bottle or breast fed. Breast feeding is natural and the fact that women who are just trying to feed their babies are shunned by public eye is not right. It's just a baby eating for goodness sake.

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