Why The ‘Breast is Best’ for Babies—And The Global Economy

Why The ‘Breast is Best’ for Babies—And The Global Economy

It may be phasing out as an older parenting method, but breastfeeding is still considered one of the most nutritional feeding methods for a baby.

And in a recent study, the small decision to take the breastfed route is a benefit to both baby and the economy. Breastfeeding babies over a longer period of time could save the global economy some $300 billion in a single year, simply by yielding smarter and higher-earning offspring, say scientists.

Additionally, it would drop the 800,000 infant deaths/year totals, and about 20,000 breast cancer deaths every year.

“Breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike,” said Cesar Victora from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, one of the authors of a research series published by The Lancet Medical Journal.

“There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Researchers came to the conclusion after the most comprehensive analysis ever done in this field. Over 28 different scientific reviews and meta-analyses that looked at the proven health and economic benefits of breastfeeding were considered.

They agreed breastfeeding led to a “dramatic” improvement in life expectancy. Interestingly, in higher income countries, the data showed infant deaths would drop by a third. In lower to middle income places, diarrhoea episodes would be cut in half, and a third of respiratory problems too. All in all, boosting breastfeeding would cut treatment costs overall of common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and asthma.

“It also increases intelligence. Modelling conducted for the series estimates that global economic losses of lower cognition from not breastfeeding reached a staggering $302 billion in 2012.”

The study, again by The Lancet Medical Journal, showed breastfeeding would lead to increased adult intelligence, longer schooling and higher adult earnings, regardless of family background. They tracked 3,500 from Brazil over thirty years from birth.

The mothers benefit as well: longer breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Researchers claim 20,000 women’s death could be stopped alone through this.

One of the key issues, especially in developed countries, is the perception of breastfeeding, especially in public. It isn’t generally accepted, or seen as ‘old-school’, so mothers are curbed from using the alternative feeding method. The scientists from the study are hoping for a political commitment, and financial investment, to make it easier for women to breastfeed.

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