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Opinion | Sexuality

Breastfeed for the Health of the Nation?

Not nursing has major societal and health consequences—but even so, mothers deserve our support and understanding, not our judgment.

A new study published in Pediatrics journal concluded that breastfeeding has major life- and money-saving benefits. The study found that "if 90 percent of U.S. families could comply with the medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States could save $13 billion [per] year and prevent an excess 911 deaths annually, 95 percent of which would be of infants."

The $13 billion figure came from examining occurrences and associated costs of 10 common illnesses that occur less often in breastfed children, as well as calculating the lost potential wages of infants who die. The preventable deaths are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and several infectious diseases that breastfeeding has been shown to reduce.

Breastfeeding came easy for me and my babies. They latched on, my milk came in, they gained weight. It is not so for many women. Their babies are tired, their breasts hurt, the nurses are overworked, the grandmas won't stop asking if a bottle might be easier, the calendar careens toward the end of maternity leave, and they crave nothing more than the uninterrupted sleep they might get if their husbands could give bottles of formula.

While 43 percent of American mothers do some breastfeeding, only 12 percent breastfeed exclusively for the first six months as recommended. Advocates argue that breastfeeding's life-saving qualities should convince mothers to do it, and everyone else to support them, without all the drama about choices and guilt. ...

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