Family Matters

More Breast-Feeding Could Save Billions and Prevent Thousands of Breast-Cancer Cases

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Thanks to public-health messages, everyone pretty much knows that breast-feeding is beneficial for baby. But it’s also really good for mom, and now a new study quantifies just how good.

If new moms adhered to the recommended guidelines that urge them to breast-feed each child they give birth to for at least one year, they could theoretically stave off up to 5,000 cases of breast cancer, about 54,000 cases of hypertension and nearly 14,000 heart attacks annually.

Averting those diseases could also save $860 million, according to research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Those figures, while significant and intriguing, are not actual numbers from documented cases. Rather, they’re the result of a sophisticated statistical model used to compare the effect of current breast-feeding rates in the U.S. to ideal rates.

The study, led by Harvard researcher Dr. Melissa Bartick, simulated the experiences of about 2 million U.S. women from the time they were 15 until they turned 70, estimating outcomes and cumulative costs over the decades in between.

Number crunchers ran the data applying current breast-feeding rates — about 25% of U.S. women breast-feed for the recommended 12 months per child — and again assuming that 90% of women embraced the guidelines. “To be totally scientifically accurate, those are costs for a cohort of women in a certain year,” says Bartick, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Harvard Medical School. “If breast-feeding rates change, the cost would be different.”

(MORE: 20 Ways to Make Breast-Feeding Easier)

Still, she says, the point is that breast-feeding boosts mom’s health in a big way. “We know that 60% of women don’t even meet their personal breast-feeding goals, whether it’s three or four or six months,” says Bartick. “We need to do more to support women so they can breast-feed longer. There are thousands of needless cases of disease and death that could be prevented.”

Multiple factors played a role in the calculations, including number of deliveries, breast-feeding duration and whether the women developed five diseases — breast cancer, premenopausal ovarian cancer, hypertension, heart attack and Type 2 diabetes — that were selected based on previous research showing that breast-feeding affects a woman’s risk of diagnosis. But this study did not find significant effects for ovarian cancer, which Bartick attributed to ovarian cancer occurring infrequently, nor diabetes, which was looked for only within 15 years of delivery.

Researchers also examined death rates from the panel of diseases, concluding that the cost to society of women dying before 70 — 11 years shorter than the average U.S. woman’s life expectancy — totals $17.4 billion. The amount derives from an economic model that uses age to value a human life.

Drilling deeper, the study found that less-than-optimal breast-feeding rates took a $734 million toll in terms of hospital stays, doctor visits and medication and cost $126 million in time away from work.

The conclusions, says Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, a neonatologist and chair-elect of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, represent a “very elegant mathematical and statistical look at the health costs to women and society of not breast-feeding optimally in the U.S.”

(MORE: Fewer Hospitals Hand Out Free Formula to New Moms)

The cost analysis is a companion to a 2010 Pediatrics study that looked at how low breast-feeding rates impact disease in children. That research, also led by Bartick, attributed 911 deaths among kids each year and annual costs of $13 billion to not following breast-feeding guidelines.

After that study was published, says Bartick, “we got a million inquiries saying, That doesn’t include the women! We wanted a complete picture.”

And now they have it, to some extent. Detractors, of course, may pooh-pooh the simulation aspect of the study. And even Bartick notes that it’s impossible to know for sure if breast-feeding itself causes less disease or if women who breast-feed simply have healthier habits. The grant, from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, helped fund a “causal-inference expert” who advised the researchers on whether they could accurately claim that breast-feeding was affecting disease risk and was not simply an association. “His opinion was there was enough evidence to suggest it was causal,” says Bartick.

The study points to the need for more support for mothers who want to breast-feed — everything from employers providing a clean, private space to pump milk to strangers learning not to gawk when a woman nurses her baby on a park bench. “What’s really important are not the numbers they came up with,” says Marinelli. “What’s important is that it tells us that the cost of not providing support to women to optimally breast-feed their babies is astronomical because of the known health benefits to women. This points out that breast-feeding is not a lifestyle choice; it’s a public-health imperative.”

MORE: Breast-Milk Donors Come to the Rescue of a New Mom With Breast Cancer

168 comments
GerriGirard
GerriGirard

THANK YOU FOR ALL U DO Ms. Bonnie

HELP! Uwrote about Sharing Breastmilk..

Ms. Ronnie,

I don't know if u could help, I am my baby's only advocate & seeking all avenues! (My apologies for grammar).

BbJJ came w a tumor or Septated Cystic Hygroma. I fell 7wks prior delivery & he came earlier (fullterm preemie). For a FP w SCH it was best for him to b at least 40wks, as I was told.

He's a SCH FP (immune system compromised&blood transfusions) & to top matters I have a gland problem impeding BM production (Sjögrens Syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia USArmy soldier mommy).

No has gotten back to me as of yet. My newborn was receiving BM from 2donor mommies (but one was charging me) not anymore! Had last batch this week --,(

PS Has bn hospitalized for infections while on formula

In Jesus name I thank you either way

Blessings ma'am

*bbjpBbjj&mommygerri*

SPC Girard

mgpodiatry@yahoo

GailHanson
GailHanson

Care needs to be taken, however, that families with bottle-fed babies also feel support.  Generally, parents are trying to provide what is best for their babies, and a baby that refuses to breast feed or a mom who never gets confident with the process already have enough emotional crap to deal with.


Jothika
Jothika

My mom did not breastfeed either my sister or me, and we turned out just fine. When my turn comes, I am not going to bother with this messy, painfully, embarrassing, and time-consuming business.

Crash568
Crash568

This finding is from a simulated model. Since I don't know what other variables or attributes are included in the summation I cannot accept it as truth. Wasted my time reading it. Let see.... Eggs are good for us. No, study says eggs are bad for us. No, no, new study says eggs are not bad for us. LOL.

joestuffsda
joestuffsda

The article fails to mention that  mother's milk produces skyrocketing immune systems in infants.

punkakes13
punkakes13

i think maternal impulses make women sick... when they r not really experienced concretaly

EllenMary
EllenMary

In the end, this is just another example of Corporations making money @ the expense of the Public Purse. The largest consumer of Formula in the US is the Government, through WIC. We also pay increased medical bills. Yet we do NOTHING to reign in Formula Advertising to vulnerable new mamas. We even allow formula companies to distribute in hospitals, market on social media to Night Nurses, and mail formula directly to mother's homes, unsolicited. So I hope the rest of y'all don't mind getting robbed by corporations, I personally do mind. 

auntester3
auntester3

What an absolutely lying BS story...It costs businesses and the govt billions in lost time over this latest  fad.

EllenMary
EllenMary

I love that this article is about MATERNAL BENEFITS of Breastfeeding and instead we are getting the same Similacfamil sponsored Rap about how it is all a myth and a fad and the babies are just fine. No one is talking about the babies. We are talking about BREAST HEALTH. Kthxbi!

tltimme62
tltimme62

Wow, quite a bit of anger on this blog isn't there. I am the youngest of three kids, neither my brothers or I were breastfed. Mom went back to work part time when I was 6 months old and went full time two years later. Amazing thing is that neither my brothers or I grew up angry, unhealthy or misguided with two parents working. Breastfeeding and working while a child is young should be up to the parent/parents of the baby and no one else.

portobellogal
portobellogal

Love the bully comments who feel they should make my decisions for me, probably by the same militants who feel its okay to drop their tops in public to feed, regardless of where they are, and who they may be offending, e.g. public restaurants.  Don't EVEN get me started on those who continue until the children are 4, 5 y.o....GROSS!!  Because I find it disgusting, never wanted to do this; didn't do it and would not be bullied into doing so.  I have two beautiful, healthy children and have never felt any guilt about my decision.  I don't want you preaching to me about YOUR religion anymore than I want you preaching to me how to make decisions about MY children.

Susanontherun
Susanontherun

@Jothika When the time comes, you'll see how much easier breastfeeding is than warming and cleaning bottles and all of that assorted nonsense. Trust me, my streak of laziness made breastfeeding that much more appealing to me. And embarrassing? I don't know what to say about that. You have the breasts to feed babies, not just as hood ornaments.

pwfmiami
pwfmiami

@EllenMary You are exactly right. We are a community organization of Black mothers in Miami that recognizes that breast-feeding is not a lifestyle choice but a reproductive justice, feminist and public health issue. Black mothers in Miami have the lowest rates of breastfeeding. Black mothers who are recipients of WIC have much lower rates of breastfeeding than their economic counterparts (low-income) who do not participate in the WIC program. The women who do qualify for WIC but do not participate has the same rates of breastfeeding as higher income upper class women who do not qualify. In short, WIC is a problem. We surveyed 300 women and many of them had formula mailed to them unsolicited. Hospitals also continue to contradict themselves by telling mothers to breastfeed then sending them home with free formula. By doing this, they endorse formula, especially companies like Similac who currently strictly use GMO corn in their infant formula products (some formula types have 42.6% corn syrup solids). Hospitals need to held accountable. Infant formula/ pharmaceutical companies must stop decieivng consumers on the benefits of "very similar" breast-milk substitutes. 

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@EllenMary Wait, I'm a bit confused on your post...do you mean that WIC (and therefore the government) pushes formula? Because from what I understand they actually try to push breastfeeding more because its cheaper (I'd like to think they push it because they believe its healthier, but I'm not sure I have that much faith in them). Also, I do have to disagree with you somewhat, I feel that these corporations have a right to advertise their product, but that health officials and the government have an obligation to make sure that a) the advertisements are not misleading or false, and b) to make sure that they support the most scientifically accurate research regarding breastfeeding, meaning that they educate those who need help (such as those benefiting from WIC). I think that hospitals should offer samples of formula to new moms, as opposed to just giving it to them in their take-home bag. I definitely think that hospitals need to make sure mothers are educated on breastfeeding, not only for the first few days, but also what to expect in the coming weeks, and how to increase supply if they feel they aren't producing enough. Many vulnerable first time moms (or first time breastfeeders) don't know about clusterfeeding during growth spurts, or techniques on how to keep the baby awake during feedings, or how if they DO actually have to supplement with formula, how to wean themselves off of the formula by doing extra nursing or extra pumping. Many moms don't run into breastfeeding issues until after the first few days, when they are already home from the hospital.

LucyMarianela
LucyMarianela

@auntester3 YOU IDIOT.. businesses are more important than infants? FAD? there was formula millions of years ago? or was breasfeeding the norm? You shill .. you animal... posting on here saying its a FAD ... THE FAD IS USING HORMONE ENHANCED GMO FILLED CHEMCAL NASTY CRAP AS A REPLACEMENT FOR TIME TESTED HUMAN MOTHER'S MILK.. HOW OLD ARE YOU SERIOUSLY?! 

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@auntester3 Are you saying breast feeding is a fad?  That is so inane that I hope I am misunderstanding you!

Brittanyd
Brittanyd

Yeah. Breastfeeding is totally the latest fad. Formula, on the other hand, has been around since the dawn of creation... However, I probably would agree that moms don't need a year of maternity leave. Not if we want women to ever get hired, and for companies to stay alive. Babies, however, do need to stay alive, and the best way to feed them (since the beginning of time) has been breastmilk. That's been proven over and over again.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@auntester3 Wow, I would check some history and anthropology before making that statement. In human history, Human Milk Replacer is the FAD, especially GMO Human Milk Replacer, it has only been around since the mid 1980s . . . In the 1950s women were still using Carnation & Karo Syrup.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@portobellogal So now the choice is breastfeed until 4/5 or not @ all? I think feeding your child RoundUp Ready GMO Corn & Soy from a plastic bottle is every bit as 'gross' as you may find nursing a preschooler, but only ONE of those behaviors helps me avoid Chemo/Radiation & Surgery. This is FAR from the only study which establishes a connection between Breast Cancer and Formula Feeding.

mm1970
mm1970

@portobellogal Hmm...what I got from this is information on why breastfeeding is good for your health, information that not everyone knows.  So, would my SIL have gotten breast cancer at 37 if she had nursed my nieces?  Well, we'll never know.

Nursing in public is feeding a baby, plain and simple.  Doesn't matter if you are in a restaurant, and bottle or breast - again, no difference, and that's what the law states.  Not sure why Americans are so bothered by it.

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@portobellogal It sounds like you are viewing breasts as sexual as opposed to a food source, which is their biological purpose. I find it interesting that you are actually offended by a baby eating. Why is a baby eating the food that his/her mother's body MADE disgusting?

EllenMary
EllenMary

@cmcgovern1990 @EllenMary I am not saying that the government pushes formula, I am saying they allow corporations to advertise their product in a way that study after study shows undermines breastfeeding success (yk, surprise, advertising WORKS!), then they happily pick up the tab for the formula and remove any financial incentive to Breastfeeding. 

Every single study on the subject also shows that handing out formula samples in hospitals as 'free gifts' not only undermines breastfeeding success but also drives mothers to EXPENSIVE name brands that are not in ANY way superior to generic brands and are especially not superior to ORGANIC brands. Name brands get recalled every single bit as often as generics and contain the same ingredients, often they are made in the same facilities! 

Keep telling yourselves that formula samples are 'free gifts' mamas, and represent 'choice'. In reality, the only one exercising CHOICE in this equation is the Formula Companies! 

EllenMary
EllenMary

@auntester3 Breastfeeding mothers who work outside the home also enjoy less time @ home with ailing infants, statistically.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@portobellogal @tltimme62 Right, unless it actually does increase the incidence of Breast Cancer. If women HAVE to give up a Breast Cancer reducing behavior to flourish @ work, then that is an OSHA issue, actually.

portobellogal
portobellogal

@EllenMary @portobellogal Perhaps you'll read my comment about my childhood friend who was diagnosed at 34 y.o. and died at 37 y.o. after breastfeeding her two children.  

portobellogal
portobellogal

@mm1970 @portobellogal And would my childhood friend have gotten breast cancer at 34 after breastfeeding her two children? Well, we'll never know.  And it DOES matter if you're in a restaurant while I've paid for a meal, and at the table next to me, one of you whip out a breast with no consideration for other diners.  I'd suggest that's what pumps are for....  

auntester3
auntester3

In the western developed world breasts evolved into enjoyment for the men..and power for women. If you want to have it as a source of food check out Africa,New Guinea etc.Ill take Katie Upton as thay are and buy her kid a bottle

portobellogal
portobellogal

@cmcgovern1990 @portobellogal Now that's a really intelligent response - that I object to a baby eating??  Why don't you re-read my post?  I'm not interested in looking at your, or anyone else's breasts while I'm eating.  What's so wrong about that?  Because I have an opinion that's different from your's, does not mean that YOU are automatically right!     

HeatherMeinke
HeatherMeinke

@cmcgovern1990 @portobellogal Hygeine. Would you want someone's bodily fluids on or near you? Especially while eating. I am breast feeding right now and don't find it difficult what so ever to keep it a private thing between my baby and me. If I need to run errands I pump ahead of time.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@cmcgovern1990 @EllenMary Infant nutrition in this country won't get better until the make the Formula companies stop with the advertising and print the INGREDIENTS on the front of the can. 

EllenMary
EllenMary

@cmcgovern1990 @EllenMary If you don't think Formula Advertising is GROSSLY misleading, check out the new ads for Similac for Supplementation. It has the EXACT same ingredients as Similac Advance, but is just repackaged to target Breastfeeding mothers directly. There is NO such thing as a formula that is better or worse for supplementation.

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@portobellogal @EllenMary I read through the comments, and I could not find a single commenter who would dare depict a mother who could not breastfeed her child due to needing to be on medication, physically unable to breastfeed, the baby being sick and needing special care and the doctor recommending an alternate source of sustenance, a mother adopting a child, etc. However this is a big difference between cannot and choosing not to. Personally, I think that in just about every situation, a mother should breastfeed because I think its more healthy for the baby, and according to this article it COULD be better for the mom as well. However I'm well aware that there are many, many people who don't share this opinion. I can accept that. I would however like to educate people on breastfeeding so that ignorance is not so widespread. I feel that mothers need to be supported in breastfeeding and not shunned like you would do.


Additionally, I don't want to be rude here...but did you read the article? No where did it say that "if you breastfeed you will not get breast cancer." In the end actually, all it said is researchers are seeing a link between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of breast cancer. The author noted that some believe there is a causal relationship between the two, but that others feel that the link may be due to external factors, such as a healthier lifestyle. Still, we are all aware that otherwise healthy people get breast (and other types of) cancer. I'm horribly sorry for your loss - cancer is a horrible disease and no one should have to go through that, but you cannot say that an article is BS because your friend who breastfed got breast cancer. You did not prove the article wrong in any way, because the article did not say that breastfeeding would stop breast cancer.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@portobellogal And the ONLY one using words like Militant or the N word here is well, not me. If you say that HFCS Soda increases the statistical risk of Type II diabetes, that doesn't mean we are just trying to make soda drinkers feel guilty and it doesn't mean that no one with type II diabetes will be a non-soda drinker.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@portobellogal @EllenMary Yk, if this were about vaccines, y'all would all be whipping out 'the plural of anecdote is not data'. Well I would suggest that cuts both ways. I repeat that this is FAR from the only study that illustrates that women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by breastfeeding, overall. I linked to a Yale study above.

portobellogal
portobellogal

@EllenMary @portobellogal The problem is that according to the militants, many of whom are commenting on this post, THEY are right because of those of us who cannot, or do not wish to breastfeed their children are somehow depicted as Nazis.  I would suggest that my friend Loretta is not the only statistic of this breast vs formula equation. 

EllenMary
EllenMary

@portobellogal @EllenMary I am truly sorry for your loss. No one is claiming that breastfeeding is 100% preventative against breast cancer, it reduces the rates on a population level. Just like seatbelts don't prevent 100% of auto fatalities but they reduce them, statistically.

MichelleStephen
MichelleStephen

@portobellogal If I wanted to MAKE and PREPARE dinner (I.E. Pump) we wouldn't be out enjoying a nice, fresh meal. You don't like it?? I's suggest that is what take-out is for...

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@EllenMary @auntester3 Definitely...how sad that people can't see breasts for their biological purpose. Instead we only see them a sexual organs. I don't even get the female power thing...

EllenMary
EllenMary

@auntester3 If women's breasts are for male enjoyment and female power, we wouldn't see so many women needing to augment their natural breasts with toxic silicone. So sad. Breasts are not now and have never been primarily for male sexual gratification and if I with a man who felt that way, I would dump him because I would regard him as a pervert with a sad fetish.

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@portobellogal @cmcgovern1990 See, the difference is that you're offended by my actions - that's a personal problem. You would like to deny me my legal right to feed my child in the manner I choose.

liquiddiamondzzzz
liquiddiamondzzzz

@portobellogal @cmcgovern1990 Yup, because you don't get to be free from being offended by something someone else cannot control at all, that is totally legal for them to be doing.  For instance, it might be less than stellar to have someone in the booth next to you that has ticks or chews loudly or smacks their lips etc.. but they have a right to be out eating, too.. just like my baby does.  And, you'd never dream of saying anything to that person, though you might request to move if you can't just block it out.  Most normal people, though, are capable of blocking out things that don't appeal to them.. like someone who smacks their lips, chews with mouth agape, or has ticks etc.   Grow up and learn to selectively ignore is my advice to you. 

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@portobellogal @cmcgovern1990 Then don't look. You can hardly see anything either - just some extra cleavage (that isn't even being exposed in a sexual way). I'm sorry you are so offended by the human body. If you don't want people to be allowed to follow the law, then maybe you shouldn't go out to eat.

liquiddiamondzzzz
liquiddiamondzzzz

@HeatherMeinke @cmcgovern1990 @portobellogal Incorrect.  There is nothing dirty about breast milk.    Breast milk can be stored in a hospital refrigerator next to food.. want to know why???? IT IS FOOD!!!! It's milk.  Edible.  And not even the sort that tends to transfer food poisoning.  Even if there is HIV in breast milk, it's like saliva in that sense and it would take long term frequent and high exposure to it in order for someone to get the HIV from it (for instance, a person would have to drink gallons of HIV positive saliva).. Simply touching breast milk isn't going to transfer HIV unless it has blood in it.. which could happen I guess, but how is the person going to touch the blood and why would someone be breastfeeding with HIV in this country and how would their bloody milk be getting near the person???  I don't get it.   I've never responded to a pump.   I'm not going to feed my 5 month old 60 dollar per container hypoallergenic (she is allergic to corn and sensitive to dairy) formula or try to get donor milk from someone corn free in order to go out in public.  Plus.. someone is way more likely to be exposed, not to mention my breast milk be contaminated or wasted some how, in some way to my perfectly clean and antibacterial/antiviral food breast milk with it in a container than it just in my breasts, anyway.    o.O   

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@EllenMary @HeatherMeinke @cmcgovern1990 @portobellogal Agreed. If pumping makes the MOTHER more comfortable, and the baby takes the bottle then I don't see an issue of course, but I feel bad that moms out there feel self-conscious about feeding their baby because people can't separate breastfeeding from breasts used in a sexual manner.

EllenMary
EllenMary

@HeatherMeinke @cmcgovern1990 @portobellogal Yeah, you would never catch me buying a 300 electric pump and introducing a bottle, which is shown to cause a shortened lactation duration just to keep others comfortable when the law in nearly every state protects my right to Breast Feed. The idea of pumping to leave the house is just ridiculous!

cmcgovern1990
cmcgovern1990

@HeatherMeinke @cmcgovern1990 @portobellogal Breastmilk is not the same as saliva or mucous - it doesn't have germs. Also, you would have to get pretty close to the mother's breasts in order to be effected by her breastmilk -- unless she were to spray it all over you? Of course its totally fine that you choose to pump ahead of time, but not every mom wants to pump, and sometimes pumping is particularly productive, and sometime babies won't take a bottle if they usually take the breast.