Breastfeeding may protect mothers from premature death and serious diseases such as cancer,
diabetes and heart disease and is not only beneficial for babies, a new study
The study underscores the importance of policies that make it possible for women to
breastfeed, according to study senior author Alison Stuebe from the University
of North Carolina in the US.
‘Breastfeeding as recommended for a total of one year and exclusively for six months could protect babies and their moms from premature death and serious diseases.’
Researchers said their findings highlight the importance of providing women with the
support they need to breastfeed their babies, beginning at birth.
"Breastfeeding is far more beneficial in preventing disease and reducing costs than previously
estimated," said lead author Melissa Bartick, assistant professor of medicine
at Harvard Medical School in the US.
"The results should compel all hospitals to develop programs aimed at helping new
mothers learn to breastfeed their babies," said Bartick.
Researchers modelled two groups for the study. The 'optimal group', in which the majority
of mothers breastfed as recommended and the 'suboptimal group', in which
mothers breastfed at current rates in the US, which are less than the
Using existing research and government data, they projected the rates and costs of
diseases that breastfeeding is known to reduce, along with the rates and costs
of early deaths from those diseases.
The researchers found that suboptimal breastfeeding was associated with more than
3,340 premature deaths in the US each year, costing the country 3 billion
dollars in medical costs, 1.3 billion dollars in indirect costs and 14.2
billion dollars in costs related to premature deaths.
The majority of the excess death and medical costs - nearly 80 percent - were
maternal. "Breastfeeding has long been framed as a child health issue, however it is clearly a women's health issue as well," said Eleanor Bimla Schwarz from University of
California, Davis, in the US.
"Breastfeeding helps prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, yet many women have no idea
breastfeeding has any of these benefits," said Schwarz.