When it comes to infant feeding, many of us may have heard that “breast is best”. The health benefits of breastfeeding to moms and babies are widely publicized and include reducing the risk of maternal postpartum depression and supporting a faster return to prepregnancy weight, reducing infant mortality and reducing the risk of the infant developing chronic health conditions including obesity and diabetes as adults. While these benefits are certainly noteworthy, the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond mom and baby.
Breastfeeding has significant economic and environmental benefits, something we may not have considered. Breastfeeding may defray both direct and indirect costs including reducing health care costs associated with office visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations, reducing family food costs and avoiding lost wages due to caring for a sick child. It has been estimated that almost $4 billion could be saved annually if the current Surgeon General recommendations for breastfeeding were met (Weimer, 2001). In terms of the environmental benefits, the impact of breastfeeding is equally as significant. With breastfeeding there is no packaging to go into the landfills and no transportation costs to get the product to market as there is with formula (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).
Whether or not we have experience with breastfeeding or know someone who does, it behooves us all to be supportive of breastfeeding. In the workplace, we can offer our office as a private space for a woman to breastfeed if no other space is available. We can support flexible schedules and telecommuting. We can verbally recognize women for the commitment it takes to breastfeed. It is also important to be non-judgemental toward parents who chose to formula feed as there may be physical, emotional or cultural reasons which impacts a parent’s feeding choice. It is up to every parent to decide what is best for her and her baby.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, held annually during the first week of August, let’s all do our part to support breastfeeding. Not only is it good for mom’s and babies but it’s good for our communities, the economy and the planet. To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week and what you can do, check out the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. If you’re interested in local breastfeeding classes or support groups you can find a list on the La Leche League website. For members of one of the Consortium college Cigna health plans breast pump rentals are covered through the Durable Medical Equipment benefit. To find out more about this benefit contact Carecentrix at 844.457.9810.