CNN Pediatrics Journal: Breastfeeding Saves Lives and Money

This can be a touchy subject in Mommy World, so I want to be careful…

There is a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, according to CNN:

If most new moms would breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, it would save nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars each year.

I don’t care for the way that’s written.  “If most new moms would breastfeed” sounds like scolding.  And since the CDC reports that only 74% of new moms even try nursing, it’s scolding a lot of loving and well-intentioned women.

Despite my problem with the tone of that statement, however, I have no trouble believing those numbers.  I have interviewed eleventy billion experts who say that while formula is indeed “nutritionally sound”, it’s not mother’s milk.

They call the first doses of mother’s milk your baby eats liquid gold.  Colostrum comes in small doses, but packs a huge punch.  Not only does your colostrum provide the exact things your specific baby needs for optimum health, it does a bunch of other things, like coat and seal your baby’s GI tract, decreasing eventual allergy risks.

And, in fact, your milk evolves with your baby.  When you nurse, you and your baby are interacting on a biological level.  Your baby’s saliva on your skin is telling your body “Hey, Mom, I need a little more of this and a little less of that.”  The composition of the milk you make changes in response to that.

Mother’s milk is a designer product!

Formula is nutritionally sound.  But it’s not a designer product.  It can’t be.  It would cost a jillion dollars if it was!

You also can’t underestimate the value of early nursing to the cognitive and emotional development of your baby in a way that has nothing to do with milk.  The closeness, the skin-to-skin contact, the actually physical connection you make with your baby on a sometimes exhaustingly frequent basis encourages healthy attachment.  I’m not talking about the mother-infant bond, here.  You and your baby will be bonded no matter how you choose to feed them.  Attachment is a much broader concept that includes all aspects of child development.

Nursing encourages secure attachment beautifully.

This is not to say formula fed babies cannot be securely attached!  My daughter was combo-fed (formula and human milk) and is quite securely attached.  Nursing moms can also be insecurely attached to their babies.  Every mom and baby are different.

It’s just that nursing is one nice and effective way to foster secure attachment.

I’m so very glad the article doesn’t go much further into the scolding area of this debate.  One of the study’s authors, Harvard Dr. Melissa Bartick, says:

Moms shouldn’t be blamed, because they receive mixed messages and often lack support from the moment their babies are born.

Ain’t that the truth!  And…

(Bartick) says the biggest priority should be to improve maternity care practices. Bartick refers to a 2007 CDC survey of hospitals and birthing centers, which scored each facility to determine how well it complied with recommendations meant to encourage women to breastfeed.

According to that survey, Bartick says, “U.S. hospitals scored a 63 – that’s a D.”

Hear, Hear!  I am all about improved maternity care!

The point I’m trying to make out of all of this meandering is this.  We all know breast is best.  Blah blah blah.  We’ve heard it until we don’t even hear it anymore.  But the fact is, mother’s milk is superior to the nutritionally sound alternative of formula for so many reasons.

So for the 26% of you who aren’t even thinking about trying it…why not just consider — just consider doing it for a few days, a least until your baby has a body full of colostrum?

You can do anything for a couple of days, right?

That is my challenge to you…<3

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One Response to “CNN Pediatrics Journal: Breastfeeding Saves Lives and Money”

  1. Lorna Lorna Says:

    Obviously I am in a different healthcare system, but I found the mixed messages an issue here as well. Our hospital had signed a breastfeeding friendly charter as required by the Scottish government but I feel a lot of the time it was more lip service that really supporting new mums. I was fortunate in that I had a great support system in my husband who knew how important breastfeeding was to me and helped me through the tough times. I actually threatened to report my health visitor if she didn’t stop offering formula as the only solution to my daughter’s weight issues (and, as it turned out and as I kept telling her, Lily’s slow weight gain was genetic). But had I not had the support and the determination (plus the fact that our maternity leave policies are a lot more generous, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about going back to work, or pumping in those first couple of months) it would have been very easy to give in and put her on formula, especially as I felt as if the health visitor just couldn’t understand my bloody mindedness on continuing breastfeeding (ummm, because it is how she is MEANT to be fed.)

    To any mums to be who are unsure whether to try breastfeeding, I can highly recommend it (I am still feeding my daughter at 19 months, but you don’t need to take it that far! ;) ) Yes, it is harder than I imagine bottle feeding is in the first few weeks. But after that it is so EASY. No faffing about with bottles in the middle of the night, or having to cart bottles, formula, sterilising equipment around with you. It’s always there, it’s always the right temperature and it is an amazing comforter for your baby when they are sick or teething or just a bit confused about this world they have been thrown into. The first time your baby breaks off from a feed to give you a big smile (as if to say thank you) is a heart melting moment. Nursing is a beautiful bond that only you will have with her and it has provided so many wonderful moments for me over the past 19 months. I know I will shed a tear or two when she finally weans.

    I definitely am passionate about breastfeeding but I am in no way a militant lactivist who pours scorn on anyone who pulls out a bottle for their baby. And don’t believe those who say you will be unable to have any kind of life if you breastfeed. I would express feeds if I was wanting to go out without my baby for a couple of hours, by expressing and then just timing feeds I was able to indulge in a glass (or two, or three) of wine and I have breastfed my daughter in a variety of restaurants, cafe bars, the cinema and parks without ever encountering a negative reaction. As Bonnie says, try it. You might like it!

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