Breastfeeding Can Reduce Infant Infections and Health Care Costs in the U.S.


Washington, DC—The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), a coalition of 35 influential nonprofit organizations with major concerns for the health of American mothers and their babies, wishes to express thanks to The New York Times for publication of the important article “Breast-feed or Else” (June, 12, 2006). The article accurately points out that there is a large body of scientific evidence indicating the significant risks to the health of both mother and infant when breastfeeding is not undertaken. Formula-fed infants do not receive the literally hundreds of components of mother’s milk that protect against many infectious and chronic diseases, and result in about a 50% reduction in common illnesses, and a 20% reduction in postneonatal deaths (Chen and Rogan).

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as numerous organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American College of Obstetrics, The Academy of Family Practitioners, The American Public Health Association and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine have published statements underscoring the clinical and public health importance of breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding. With knowledgeable health care providers, supportive hospital practices, adequate maternity leave, work site accommodation for pumping and storing milk, and protection from harassment, the majority of mothers can successfully breastfeed their babies, lowering the risks of illness for themselves and their infants and saving billions of dollars annually.

The article “Breast-feed or Else” also raises the concern that women feel under pressure to do what is best for their infants and may experience guilt if they do not succeed with breastfeeding. The USBC supports informed choice, free of commercial bias, and applauds the work of the DHHS to present correct information in the public service advertising campaign. There is no question that heavy commercial marketing and “give aways” of free commodities by formula companies influence feeding choices. Another important barrier preventing women from exclusively breastfeeding their babies, however, is lack of support in the workplace. Fully 60% of mothers with young children are in the workforce—they are the fastest growing segment of the US labor force. State and national legislation and regulation to disseminate accurate and unbiased information, support workplace breastfeeding, create a social norm of breastfeeding, and train health professionals in skills and knowledge to advocate for and support optimal infant feeding, are important first steps to address the pressures that new mothers currently experience.

A recent study conducted by the USBC shows that lack of break time and inadequate facilities for pumping and storing human milk make it difficult to breastfeed once mothers return to work. The study found many good breastfeeding support programs in effect at corporations, manufacturing organizations, and other settings. In addition to allowing mothers and babies the benefits of breastfeeding, employers noted many economic benefits including lower health care cost amounting to $400 per baby over the first year as well as reduced absenteeism and higher morale.

Given the enormous health and cost payoffs to be derived from addressing workplace breastfeeding challenges, the USBC is actively supporting education of employers and health care organizations on this issue.

For more information on the USBC workplace report and the risks of formula feeding, visit

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