The high cost of not breastfeeding

News reports about the high cost of health care for our nation may not mean much to you as an individual. You might be thinking that the problem is with drug companies and health care providers charging too much. You might also be thinking that you cannot possibly make a difference in lowering the cost of health care. There are many factors that play a role in why health care costs are so high. Did you know that breastfeeding is one way that families can lower their own health care costs as well as the health care costs of the community and nation? When the majority of infants are not breastfed, the cost to our health is more sickness, infections and diseases. At least 10 childhood diseases happen more often when babies do not receive breast milk.

Those diseases include infections of the ear, stomach and respiratory tract, as well as, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood leukemia, childhood asthma, diabetes, and obesity. In 2010, the cost savings from just three of the common childhood illnesses was estimated to be $3.6 billion a year if 50 percent of U.S. infants were fed only breastmilk for the first six months. For women, there is an increased risk in heart attacks, hypertension, breast cancer, premenopausal ovarian cancer and diabetes for those who breastfeed less than recommended. Many dollars could be saved from less disease and sickness as well as the lower level of premature deaths that might result when babies are breastfed.

Even though most expectant mothers may know that breastfeeding is important for their health and their baby’s, they may not truly understand all of the reasons to do it. Others may begin breastfeeding in the hospital, but quit after a few days or weeks. Some of the reasons include:
1. A lack of support from health care providers and from family 2. A need for the mother to return to school or work

3. Mixed messages about formula and early supplementation The good news is that breastfeeding has gained support from national and state health agencies. There are laws that require support for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace and policies that support breastfeeding in the hospital. Support is also needed to help mothers reach their own breastfeeding goals. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first year of life and beyond a year as long as mother and baby both desire.


The Arkansas Department of Health Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) has staff who can teach women about breastfeeding and provide the support needed after mother and baby are home from the hospital. For more information, call the Arkansas WIC Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-800-445-6175 or post a question to the Facebook page at AR WIC breastfeeding

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