A new study published in the journal Pediatrics today shows just how important it is to breast feed babies in the first six months of life. Because doing so is linked to a reduction in several costly illnesses and deaths, encouraging 90 percent of women to breast feed would save $13 billion a year, the study says.
The study found that only about 12 percent of American women exclusively breast feed their children for the first six months of life, as recommended. College graduates are the most likely to breast feed; their rates are at 45 percent. The least likely are poor women and teenage mothers. There are reasons for this that go beyond education, of course. Non-college grads are more likely to have jobs where they're unable to stay on maternity leave for a long time, and then more likely to go back to work in places where it is difficult to pump breast milk. So that makes this not just a public health issue but a social justice one.
The health-care bill includes requirements for employers to start accommodating women who are breast feeding. The next step is to encourage doctors to encourage mothers to do it.
-- Monica Potts