April 5, 2010
Posted: 09:00 PM ET
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(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, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
"The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations," the report said.
The World Health Organization says infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life "to achieve optimal growth, development and health." The WHO is not alone in its recommendations.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that breast milk alone is sufficient for newborns and infants until they are 6 months old.
However, a 2009 breastfeeding report card from the CDC found that only 74 percent of women start breastfeeding, only 33 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at three months and only 14 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at six months.
Dr. Melissa Bartick, one of the new study's co-authors, says the vast majority of extra costs incurred each year could be saved "if 80 to 90 percent of women exclusively breastfed for as little as four months and if 90 percent of women would breastfeed some times until six months." Bartick is a hospitalist - a doctor who specializes in the care of hospitalized patients - at Cambridge Health Alliance, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a mother of two.
Filed under: Health
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