Breastfeeding has large beneficial effects on women’s health


It is known that breastfeeding can bring many benefits to babies, such as lower risk of asthma or allergies, fewer ear infections, and fewer respiratory illnesses.

Recently, scientists find that breastfeeding can bring health benefits to mothers too. The finding is published in Maternal & Child Nutrition.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts, University of California, Davis, University of Cincinnati, University of Iowa, University of Pittsburgh, Rice University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill worked together to conduct the study.

They focused on current research findings about the relation between breastfeeding and health outcomes for 9 pediatric and 5 maternal diseases.

Using an analysis method called Monte Carlo simulation, researchers modelled a hypothetical cohort of US women followed from 15 to 70 years old and their children from birth to 20 years old.

Researchers examined disease outcomes using the 2012 breastfeeding rates and assuming that 90% of infants were breastfeeding according to medical recommendations. After that, they measured annual deaths and associated costs in 2014.

The result showed that suboptimal breastfeeding was associated with more than 3,340 premature deaths in the U.S. each year, costing the nation $3 billion in medical costs, $1.3 billion in indirect costs and $14.2 billion in costs related to premature deaths.

In addition, 78% of death were maternal due to breast cancer, diabetes, and heart attacks, and 79% of the medical costs were maternal.

Women are medically recommended to breastfeed to prevent several diseases in infants, including an infant gastrointestinal infection, acute otitis media, and hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infection.

In addition, mothers are medically recommended to breastfeed to prevent maternal high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attacks.

Researchers suggest that for every 597 women who optimally breastfeed, one maternal or child death is prevented.

Therefore, policies to increase optimal breastfeeding could result in substantial public health gains.

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Citation: Bartick MC, et al. (2016). Suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: Maternal and pediatric health outcomes and costs. Maternal & Child Nutrition, published online. DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12366.
Figure legend: This image is credited to Mothering Touch.