Breastfeeding could not only save the lives of more than 800,000 babies and young children across the globe but also avoid an extra 20,000 deaths resulting from breast cancer each year, and it can also boost the economy, says a new study that is described as the most detailed quantifying one regarding breastfeeding. It is published in two parts in The Lancet.
Breastfeeding: A global issue
The authors write that breastfeeding is greatly overlooked in our contemporary societies irrespective of economic situation of the country. On the other hand, it saves lives both in rich and poor countries. One of the researchers, Professor Cesar Victora from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil, says that the issue should be dealt with globally.
A number of benefits will potentially be achieved if breastfeeding is increased to near-universal levels. The lives of over 800,000 children (representative of 13% of children under two dying) can be saved each year worldwide.
Moreover, breastfeeding comes with many more advantages for the mother and her child both.
Life expectancy and diseases
Breastfeeding greatly lowers the risk of sudden infant deaths in opulent countries while it helps avoid 50% of diarrhea problems and a third of respiratory ones in low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, it has been linked with protection from obesity and diabetes later in life. It also appears to be a shield against cancer for mothers: if done for a long period of time, it decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Having fewer such cases also means that less money is allocated to treatment: when breastfeeding rates were increased for babies below 6 months of age, it resulted in decreased treatment costs in a number of countries (the US, China, Brazil, and the UK).
If you want your child to be intelligent, breastfeeding is the answer, according to the findings.
Breastfeeding and the economy
Not breastfeeding comes with consequences that extend to the economic health of countries, and not just in terms of health care expenses. In 2012, global economic losses due to lower cognition as a consequence of not breastfeeding were at US$ 302 billion; in high-income countries, the figure is at US$231.4 billion.
Breast milk is irreplaceable
Professor Victora also cautions against the notion that there are substitutes for breast milk. According to him, it is a common misconception that artificial products can be an alternative that does not involve negative effects. Professor Victora argues that their findings show important long-term negative consequences on the health, nutrition and development of both mother and child when the decision to not breastfeed is implemented.