It’s really rather amazing. According to a recent exhaustive six-year global study, if more women breastfed their babies, or breastfed them longer, it would save the world $341 billion. And that’s not the amount of money spent on formula.
So, where do the savings come from? According to health experts, it’s the long-term benefits of breastfeeding that can save both money and lives. The study, called “The Cost of Not Breastfeeding,” found that breastfeeding “helps prevent diarrhea and pneumonia in babies, which are key contributors to infant deaths globally, and it protects mothers from ovarian and breast cancer.”
The study further concluded that, in the long term, breastfeeding results in healthier children and mothers who will spend less on medical services. Besides a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, for instance, mothers who breastfeed also have a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes and postpartum depression.
Setting the course for a healthy immune system and metabolism. We already know that babies who are breastfed the recommended duration (exclusively for the first six months, and with solids for up to a year) have fewer colds, ear and throat infections, fewer hospitalizations for respiratory infections and a reduced risk of asthma, type I and type II diabetes, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But scientists have recently identified that the beneficial bacteria in breast milk can help set a healthy course for the baby’s growing immune system and metabolism.
Why do so many women give up after a few months? Breastfeeding is best, but it’s not always easy. Local statistics tell us that the vast majority of women want and intend to breastfeed, but less than 20% are still breastfeeding at the one-year mark. While some women have physical difficulties, new moms most often cite a lack of familial and workplace support and accommodation.
A recently published study reports that, “Shaming moms for breastfeeding in public is holding them back in every area from their work lives to their social lives. New moms face an overwhelming lack of support when breastfeeding or breast pumping in public, from both men and women,” according to one of the study’s authors.
Despite the fact that breastfeeding-friendly workplaces have been shown to decrease employee absenteeism by up to 57% while enhancing employee productivity, loyalty and morale, many workplaces have been slow to truly support breastfeeding employees. Nebraska law requires larger employers to provide time and a safe, sanitary and private space that’s not a bathroom for mothers to pump breast milk at work, but smaller employers do not have to comply.
There’s help and support in Lincoln. Lincoln has some exceptional nonprofit resources to help moms and families navigate their breastfeeding journeys.
• MilkWorks has certified lactation specialists and a host of education classes. They provide comprehensive information on their website, including lots of answers to frequently asked questions, at milkworkslincoln.org.
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• WIC – The Women, Infant and Children program through the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department (lincoln.ne.gov keyword: WIC) provides breastfeeding information and support, including breast pumps, for low- to moderate-income families.
• Family Services – WIC (familyservicelincoln.org) provides free food, nutrition information and breastfeeding support to qualifying pregnant women, infants and children under age 5.
• Community Breastfeeding Educator (CBE) Program (milkworks.org/education-support/community-breastfeeding-educators)
A collaborative program supported by MilkWorks, Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org/breastfeeding), and the Asian Community and Cultural Center, CBEs provide culturally sensitive breastfeeding support and education to new moms in nine languages within their own communities or homes. CBEs also provide services onsite at MilkWorks, the Asian Center, Malone Community Center and El Centro de las Americas.
• BlueStem Health (bluestemlincoln.com) provides breastfeeding education, support and referral services through a certified lactation consultant.
• Lincoln Hospitals – Both of Lincoln’s hospitals offer lactation consulting and education classes.
• WorkWell – As part of the Nebraska Safety Council (nesafetycouncil.org), WorkWell helps employers develop a breastfeeding-friendly workplace.