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

170 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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

josalynd
josalynd

We could breastfeed longer if we had not only public support, but support on the job as well. Having to go back to work at 8 weeks and because most jobs do not permit pumping every 2 or even 3 hours, let along a place to do it in private do not encourage the practice. Maybe if family work laws and short term disability were extended it would be feasible to breastfeed longer.

pfhunt1
pfhunt1

By the standards set in this study, I have saved hundreds and thousands of dollars by not breastfeeding! LOL

zeldaschampion
zeldaschampion

Woman have access to free baby formula. Why deny the option which is much more healthier and is free?

pfhunt1
pfhunt1

This is not a factual study!  Anyone can prove anything using this standard. Women, for once think for your self instead of following the heard! I chose not to breast feed and never had any of the conditions described in this article. I also have extremely intelligent and health children.  Please spend your time doing something other trying to prove you are super mom or justifying motherhood as important.  Motherhood is important on its own and there is no one right way!  Do what is best for your family and stop making yourself feel better about your life by calling other women names and judging them.  You are the ones who should be ashamed of yourselves. Bullies!

Corri Taylor
Corri Taylor

rock on! keep writing about this and change will happen!

SashaBrinson
SashaBrinson

it hurts at the beginning when the baby first latch on, we get little dry painful skin around nipple but it does not last. so much more healthier than that nasty stinky fake powder called formula that has nothing in common with breast milk. some women cant produce milk, not their fault but the ones who don't want to damage their boobies, please grow up, my children never had cold, infections....no runny nose either, and their poop smell good compare to formula. the world is not understanding many important things in life anymore.....don't be selfish about your baby...peanut butter enhances milk productivity...

SashaBrinson
SashaBrinson

I breastfed all mine and still breastfeed my 11 month old. god created nature and women with breast to feed their babies. not for men to play with!

maja983
maja983

3 months ago I became a mom. Breastfeeding is not easy. I was in the hospital having trouble with latching and all sorts of things and everytime there was a shift change a different nurse would tell me a different thing. At the end of the day, it didn't matter what they told me..I had bruises all over my breasts and I was bleeding and I felt like crying everytime I tried it. I saw a lactation consultant who game me a shield that helped things a bit, but it was still painful and awful. On top of things my baby kept falling asleep during it and no matter how much I tickled her face, she would not wake up... off course, half an hour later she realized she was still hungry so we would start the process again... I spend the first 2 weeks in a breastfeeding haze where it really seemed like that was all I was doing... I was afraid to give her expressed milk because I was afraid it would give her "nipple confusion" but then she was losing a lot of weight so the doctor suggested pumping...so I did...and then completely switched to expressed milk. At the end of the day, what matters is that she is healthy and getting all her nutrients. I know they said it is important for bonding, but I can't imagine how me crying every 3 hours from the pain would be helpful at all...As for the bonding experience...I still don't understand the concept... I am pretty attached to my baby...and since I was with her 24/7 for the first 6 weeks, she is pretty attached to me too. Me and her dad are the only ones that constantly get her to smile and that are able to calm her down when she is crying, and she often cries when other people are holding her...so I don't think the lack of breast feeding has really affected her emotionally. The funny thing is that I have had many friends who have had babies within the last year, and we all seemed to have similar problems, but were sort of reluctant to talk about it out of feeling inadequate for not being able to do it. 

We seem to think that maybe moms are getting whinnier regarding the breastfeeding issues, but that is not at all the case. The amount of people breasfeeding is actually increasing since advantages of it to both mother and child have been highlighted. Also, back in the day there were lactation maids, women who were hired by rich families to nurse kids. 

So basically, what I am trying to say is that at the end what matters the most is the health of the child. As someone who just went trough it (or id going trough it), my advise is not to give up too fast, but if things are not going well and it is causing more grief than anything else, then explore other options. Pumping is a great thing. It really eased the anxiety while allowing my baby to get her breastmilk. It is a pain to have to pump 3-4 times a day, but much better than crying from the pain, and the anxiety of not knowing exactly how much the baby is getting and is she eating enough... and most imoprtantly, if you have been trough a difficult experience, share it with someone who is going trough the same...last week i talked to a friend who had a baby 2 weeks ago. It broke my heart to hear her crying inconsolably because she didn't know what to do and she felt like an awful person but she felt like she didn't think she couldn't handle the breastfeeding part for much longer. It felt good to be able to ease her anxiety by sharing my story with her.

trishazim
trishazim

The brunt of the effort to change things shouldn't be put on new mothers, especially by 'guilting' them into it. Our society at large needs to be more supportive of breastfeeding and realize how important this is. I think researching and informing people of the larger benefits of breastfeeding is a good thing.  

BreastCaseScenario
BreastCaseScenario

To all the women out there who try their best to breastfeed and it doesn't work out, than KUDOS to you to DOING YOUR BEST.


To all the lazy women out there who find it "weird", "inconvenient", or are just flat-out lazy to breastfeed due to whatever self-serving reason, than SHAME ON YOU.

Osiris
Osiris

Breast feeding isn't always possible for a lot of new moms.  Articles like this are just one more guilt trip for new moms.

westsideboiler
westsideboiler

When Jennifer Love Hewitt starts breastfeeding, she could "single-handedly" end world hunger!

CH
CH

Don't tell the GOP, they will just add "force mothers to breastfeed" along with their other, anti-women agenda.

brighidsvoice
brighidsvoice

LOOK...Look at all you Catty women arguing about breast feeding. Either do it, or dont. It doesn't matter what others think of your choice. I had four kids, and tried to breast feed each one, and it didn't work out. I was upset that I wasn't able to do it,  but I didn't agonize over it. I agree to the MANY benefits of breastfeeding, but what I don't agree with is the women on both sides of the issue that get so nasty with each other, and care SO MUCH about what the OTHER person is doing.  Look at some of you getting so angry when reading the article about the benefits of breastfeeding...that anger comes form guilt. You know what if it was your choice to not breastfeed, don't feel guilty. On the same token, if you are a breast feeding advocate, don't berate a women when you see her pop a bottle on a baby's mouth...maybe that bottl eis not formula. Maybe the person tried to breasfeed, but couldn't. I also don't want to hear "you didn't try enough". How do you know?   Women are so mean to other women, and that is what makes me so very sad. Silly childish girls.....

EllenMary
EllenMary

Here's another study, from Yale: http://news.yale.edu/2001/01/25/breast-cancer-risk-reduced-50-percent-breastfeeding-two-or-more-years

It is sad that women will never believe good research on the causes of Breast Cancer because they want to feel good about choices that advertisers are largely making for them. So yeah, your cleaning products are JUST fine, even tho they are full of known carcinogens. And keep getting those Acrylic Nails & Hair Dye, who cares if your beauty professional has to wear a mask? And buying Komen's Promise Me carcinogeny body spray. Sigh! Yes, lots of Breast Cancer is caused by industrial pollution, but Breastfeeding plays a significant role.

blursd
blursd

"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.
"


Headline ... "Breastfeeding could help prevent breast cancer!!!"  Actual admission IN THE ARTICLE ... "there's no definitive proof that breast feeding lowers the chance of developing breast cancer."  

So ... basically ... you admit that the entire premise of your article is complete crap (by conveniently sliding it, at the very end, at a side note caveat) ... nice job :s

EllenMary
EllenMary

This pregnancy I decided to sign up for the mainstream Mama Boards (BabyCenter, etc). Sorpresa! They are all sponsored by Good Start & Similac! Even Fit Pregnancy is all about some Formula Ads. And the Ads are still in Dr. Offices, free samples in Hospitals, etc. Sad! I have nothing against formula, I have a ton against manipulative marketing!

I'd love to hear more about breastfeeding in discussions about 'herd immunity'! 

Breastfeeding benefits to my children are nice, but the benefits for me are what really sold me! I think we should talk more about maternal benefits in Breastfeeding Advocacy!

TonyXL
TonyXL

"Having it all" isn't quite working out for Mom or baby now...

greyhairedmom
greyhairedmom

Maybe if it was easier for women who also have to work to breastfeed more women would! Parental leave policies are among the worst in the world! 

www.grayhairedmom.com


consumerjoe
consumerjoe

This is bull **** and junk science at it's best. There is NO evidence or scientific data that proves breastfeeding prevents breast cancer, hypertension and heart attack!!! Breastfeeding is a personal CHOICE - it's not a medical condition reported for propaganda to save government money on healthcare... I think we're smarter than you give us credit for! If they knew what causes breast cancer, it would have been cured by now. So let's blame it on the mothers of the world - they don't have enough guilt. Bottom line is "as always" MONEY. Read it again.

RachelMaxim
RachelMaxim

That formula-feeding can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer (yes I changed the wording around because breastfeeding is the biological norm), has been known for years: http://www.llli.org/cbi/bibcancer.html

It is great the media is finally starting to talk about it. It would be nice if the article cited the study. The more moms and families are educated, the more empowered they will be to make fully informed decisions. This not about passing judgment, its about fully supporting families and change will come only when we embrace the fact that it takes a village - and education is part of that (as is more maternity leave, more support from peers, healthcare providers, and society, etc).

anticomm
anticomm

Greg: Oh, yeah, you can milk anything with nipples.
Jack: I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?

janebrent1
janebrent1

Want another life-saving tip?  What the medical establishment won't tell you, but homeopathic providers will, is that there is a strong link between abortion and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

JayneQP
JayneQP

@SueMV, it doesn't say that it will protect us from these illnesses, it says it can lower our risks.  Other factors will always play a part in the efficacy  of any preventative or advantageous measures we take, as women, to stave off disease and ill health.  Environmental, dietary, medicinal, etc.  There is no magic bullet, but to ignore the fact that breast feeding can lower your risk of these conditions would be terribly irresponsible.  

Just because we don't know what will make or break cancer doesn't mean you should ignore evidence that can only be beneficial.

SueMV
SueMV

I breast fed three full term babies for an average of 13 months each with no formula or bottles.  With no family history of the disease, I was still diagnosed with breast cancer at age 47.  This is just statistical baloney with nothing but speculation behind it.  I fully support breast feeding - but telling women that breast feeding will protect them from breast cancer or hypertension or diabetes is just not true. 

catmom
catmom

This is hilarious. I am so tired of society expecting women to lead dual lives to be successful career women and then be superstar mommy by breastfeeding and staying home with your child all while working FT.  I am sure there are ways to do both but lets face it...most employers do not even have maternity leave and you only have 12 weeks of FMLA. I do not have kids but I will gladly pay a small tax for women having extended maternity leave/ extended FMLA. I am sure more women would gladly breast feed if there were more available resources. 

ScottsdaleBubbe
ScottsdaleBubbe

Breast feeding will only expand in the U.S. when workplace leave is extended (or even granted at all) to the level it is in western European countries.  Otherwise, weaning at 6 weeks doesn't make sense.  Breast pumping is a nightmare, inconvenient in the workplace, and I admire any woman who puts herself through it.   Until that happens, it is bordering on inhumane to publish articles like this to add another layer of "shoulds" to already burdened working mothers. 

p.piercy
p.piercy

And it's not that breastfeeding "boosts mom's health"--it's that NOT breastfeeding puts mom's health at risk, at the epidemiological level.  Breastfeeding is a normal biological function of the female body, in the same way that functioning pancreases and thyroid glands are biologically normal.  When biological things aren't working as they ought for whatever reason, we are glad for manufactured substitutes (formula, insulin, synthetic thyroid hormones) to help us bridge the gaps to health.  But we don't claim that the normal function of the body is a "boost."