If I spouted a pithy cliche like “breast is best” no one would ever argue with me. It’s a safe thing to say. After all, everyone’s been told ad nauseam that breastfeeding is optimal nourishment for the baby.
It’s an understood fact. Most people understand that nursing is good for the mother too. And some people would admit that there are perks for the baby’s father. But rarely does anyone consider the impact of breastfeeding on our world.
While investigating the long-reaching benefits of breastfeeding, I uncovered some pretty surprising facts – facts that haven’t been widely shared. Let me show you some very interesting ways that the impact of breastfeeding makes our world better.
1 Breastfeeding helps the environment
When mothers choose to breastfeed, they obviously use less formula if any at all. At the baby’s home, this means less trash, fewer detergents being used to clean dirty bottles, no energy being used to heat formula, and absolutely no fuel consumed in trips to buy formula.
As the demand for formula decreases, so does the manufacturing. Think of all the pollution, and waste that would be avoided. Now think of all the fuel and energy savings there!
Breastfed babies on average experience less gas, colic, and tummy trouble than their nursing counterparts. With this in mind, if 90% of infants across the globe were breastfed exclusively for six months, imagine what an effect that would have on our environment!
2 Breastfeeding saves lives
Breastfeeding is credited with a 36% reduction in the incidence of SIDS.*
According to a 2010 article in Pediatrics, almost 1,000 lives per year would be saved in the United States alone if 90% of infants were breastfed for their first six months of life.**
Regarding the global effects of breastfeeding, the World Health Organization cites a 2016 study to boldly state that
If breastfeeding were scaled up to near universal levels, about 820 000 child lives would be saved every year ***
Let me just repeat that. 820,000 lives would be saved! Wow.
I’m no lactivist, but I truly wish every mother would at least attempt to breastfeed. What does it hurt to try?
3 Breastfeeding lowers medical costs
On average, breastfed babies tend to be sick less than formula fed babies. I’ve experienced that in my own life. My oldest nursed for only 4 months and it seemed like he was always sick with something or another. I had lots of doctor bills with that one! My other kids each nursed over a year and have been healthy as little horses. Healthier kids mean fewer doctor visits and lower medical costs.
And the long-reaching affect of breastfeeding for the nation and the world? Stop and consider for a moment that when compared to their formula-fed counterparts, breastfed babies suffer from less asthma, allergies, infections, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, diabetes, leukemia, lymphoma, obesity…and the list goes on. There are so very many ways breastmilk makes babies healthier. If breastfeeding was almost universally adopted, the reduction in medical costs would be profound.
An often-overlooked fact is that mothers who nurse their babies are healthier too. Significantly. If you haven’t already read my post on the incredible health benefits breastfeeding mothers enjoy, I strongly suggest reading it. It’s an eye-opener. Nursing dramatically improves a woman’s long-term health, giving her added protection against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Which once again means lower medical costs – but more importantly, lives saved.
4 Breastfeeding creates a stronger workforce
This may be confusing at first glance but think about it. Parents with healthy kids don’t miss nearly as much work as parents with sick kids. (Just ask my old boss. I missed a LOT with my oldest!) That’s not just when they’re babies, either. Kids who were breastfed tend to be healthier all throughout childhood.
Then when you factor in that a woman who breastfeeds gets added protection against diabetes, cancer, and heart disease…wow. It’s pretty clear that breastfeeding really does impact our workforce for the better.
Putting the pieces together
If you were to list the pros vs cons, I’m sure you’d see pros stacked way high in favor of breastfeeding.
Are there cons? Sure. It’s not easy. There could be any number of issues with latch, scheduling, work interference, illness, milk supply, foods, medicine, etc.
I think we can agree that on the whole though, breastfeeding is just so darn good for all of us. So when we see a nursing mother, show some support. If you know a nursing mom who’s struggling, give her some love. And if you know someone who’s trying to decide if breastfeeding is the right choice, share this post with them.
Let’s do all we can to keep the milk flowing and boost our society!
Can you think of a way breastfeeding affects our society? Please share it in the comments below!
*Here is the link regarding breastfeeding and SIDS: https://archive.ahrq.gov/downloads/pub/evidence/pdf/brfout/brfout.pdf
**Bartick, M., Reinhold, A. (2010). The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics; 125(5): e1048-e1056.