Importance of Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding offers an unmatched beginning for children. 
Providing infants with human milk gives them the most complete nutrition possible. Human milk provides the optimal mix of nutrients and antibodies necessary for each baby to thrive. Scientific studies have shown us that breastfed children have far fewer and less serious illnesses than those who never receive breast milk, including a reduced risk of SIDS, childhood cancers, and diabetes (1, 2, 3).

Mothers who breastfeed are healthier.
Recent studies show that women who breastfeed enjoy decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancer, anemia, and osteoporosis. They are empowered by their ability to provide complete nourishment for their babies. Both mother and baby enjoy the emotional benefits of the very special and close relationship formed through breastfeeding (4).

Families who breastfeed save money.
In addition to the fact that breast milk is free, breastfeeding provides savings on health care costs and related time lost to care for sick children. Because breastfeeding saves money, fathers feel less financial pressure and take pride in knowing they are able to give their babies the very best (5).

Communities reap the benefits of breastfeeding.
Research shows that there is less absenteeism from work among breastfeeding families. Resources used to feed those in need can be stretched further when mothers choose to give their babies the gift of their own milk rather than a costly artificial substitute. Less tax money is required to provide assistance to properly feed children. Families who breastfeed have more money available to purchase goods and services, thereby benefiting the local economy. Research also shows that breastfed babies have higher IQ scores, as well as better brain and nervous system development. When babies are breastfed, both mother and baby are healthier throughout their lives. This translates to lower health care costs and a reduced financial burden on families and third-party payers, as well on community and government medical programs (6).

The environment benefits when babies are breastfed.
Scientists agree that breast milk is still the very best way to nourish babies, and may even protect babies from some of the effects of pollution. Breastfeeding uses none of the tin, paper, plastic, or energy necessary for preparing, packaging, and transporting artificial baby milks. Since there is no waste in breastfeeding, each breastfed baby cuts down on pollution and garbage disposal problems. In addition, research shows that exclusive breastfeeding naturally spaces pregnancies (7).

(1) Cunningham, A. et al. J Pediatr 1991; 118(5):659-66. 

(2) Lucas, A. et al. Lancet 1992; 33:261-62. 

(3) Mortenson, E.L. et al. JAMA 2002; 28(15):2365-71. 

(4) Enger et al. Br J Cancer 1997; 76(1): 118-23. 

(5) Tuttle, C.R. et al. J Am Diet Assoc 1996; 96(9): 885-90.

(6) Montgomery et al. J Am Diet Assoc 1997; 97(4): 379-85.

(7) Rogan, W.J. and Gladen, B.C. Early Hum Dev 1993; 31: 181-93.

Adapted from Did You Know Breastfeeding Makes a Difference? La Leche League, the International Lactation Consultant Association, and the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy.

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