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Breast-feeding Encouraged by Health Care Overhaul

April 8, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Health benefits and cost savings have been assigned to breast-feeding before, but the new health care overhaul includes some other financial, and healthful, reasons for mothers to breast-feed their babies. 

Large employers will, under the health care plan, be required to have private areas available for nursing mothers to pump their milk. And toward getting more federal dollars, the Joint Commission this week settled on a provision that may evaluate hospitals on whether they ensure that newborn infants are fed only breast milk until they go home.

The financial benefit extends to communities in lower health care costs, according to an article by Lindsey Tanner in Yahoo News referring to study results that were published online last week in Pediatrics. About $13 billion annually could potentially be saved if babies were breast-fed through their sixth month. Study authors considered 10 childhood diseases or syndromes that could possibly be prevented by breast-feeding—asthma, ear infections, juvenile diabetes, stomach viruses, childhood leukemia and SIDS. They analyzed the cost of treating and hospitalizing these children, and they allowed for the lost lifetime wages for children who died. They estimated that breast-feeding, by 90% of American moms, could save about 900 babies a year. Currently about 12% of mothers breast-feed for six months, though 43% breast-feed for shorter periods of time.

In 2001, similar information was issued in a government report, stating a $3.6 billion savings if only 50% of mothers breast-fed. While health care costs have risen significantly since then, breast-feeding ratios have not.

“The magnitude of health benefits linked to breast-feeding is vastly underappreciated,” said Melissa Bartick, MD, internist and instructor at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author. “Breast-feeding is sometimes considered a lifetime choice, but Bartick calls it a public health issue,” Tanner wrote.

“The health care system has got to be aware that breast-feeding makes a profound difference.” said Ruth Lawrence, MD, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ breast-feeding section.

Related seminar: Pittsburgh Breast Imaging Seminar

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