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Health Policy, Pediatrics, Public Health

Breastfeeding called a "secret weapon to save billions of dollars"

nursing baby.jpg

Articles on the importance of breastfeeding are hardly novel – the well-established benefits are oft-discussed by medical reporters and mommy bloggers – but a Huffington Post column really got my attention with its powerful prose yesterday. Calling breastfeeding a “secret weapon to save billions of dollars,” columnist (and MomsRising vice president) Mary Olivella discusses breastfeeding as both a public-health and economic issue and outlines a recent study showing that the U.S. could save $13 billion annually if 90 percent of moms were able to breastfeed exclusively for six months. (Currently, only a shockingly low 14 percent of moms do.)

In her piece, Olivella also outlines the barriers preventing many women from breastfeeding – one of the biggest being our country’s lack of paid leave. (Sure, women can – and do – pump milk at work, but let’s just say it’s not always easy or even possible. Plus, Olivella points out that studies show that when women are able to take off work after having a baby, breastfeeding rates go up.) Olivella writes:

We are left with a situation where only affluent women, or the relatively small number of women whose employers voluntarily offer paid leave, can afford to stay home with a newborn for any significant length of time.

I like Olivella’s column, which goes on to discuss the push for paid family leave and other pro-breastfeeding initiatives, because it portrays breastfeeding as more than a “mommy” concern. In fact, it’s something that affects all of us:

Everyone wants healthy babies, and we all sure would like to bring down our country’s health care costs. Breastfeeding is a powerful bridge to connect these twin goals.

Photo by fikirbaz

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