breastfeeding is best, to the tune of billions
When I first saw the news, I wanted to just, you know, sigh. It's a drum many Portland mamas have been beating for at least a decade, probably several: breastfeeding is not just great for a baby, it's cheap, and not just for a family's budget during those first several months but for society. (And I want to say here that I know some mamas want to, but aren't able to, breastfeed because of work or health reasons or adoption or just some rare bit of fate that comes between a baby and "breastfeeding success," and that I don't want to call out the mamas for whom it doesn't work out -- except to offer my sympathy and support and love.) But, says my friend and fellow finance geek Melly, a "recent study published in Pediatrics found that poor compliance with breastfeeding recommendations costs the U.S. at least $13 billion each year, with nearly all of the cost related to infant morbidity and mortality."
Well. You know if the finance geeks, the AP, the Daily Mail and Business Week and CNN and the rest of them are putting the word "breastfeeding" in headlines and -- it's not just a casual glance at the practice, they're encouraging it -- you know times, they are a-changing. And I appreciate the specificity of the facts here. Another bit from Melly's piece: "In 2006, only 13 states met the quite low 17% target set by the Healthy People objectives for mothers exclusively breastfeeding their infant through six months of age." Wow -- I know Oregon is one that easily met the target, but 17%, and we know why (poor social support, terrible workplace conditions for breastfeeding moms, tiny or non-existent maternity leaves, too many low-income working and single moms, too much -- too effective -- marketing by the formula companies). Mamas in Portland and elsewhere are working on that stuff; a press release even this weekend from the Nursing Mothers Council of Oregon offers support to businesses to give moms a place to pump at work -- see more info from Marion Rice about that, after the 'continued' link. But we can't even get 17% of moms (theoretically, quite a few more than 17% are able to stay home with their children) to breastfeed for six months, even though it's far cheaper?
Here's the part that had headline writers clucking and the news anchors squawking: "The study authors listed direct and indirect costs associated with illness and premature death due to the current poor levels of compliance compared with 90% compliance in 2007 dollars." I'll go ahead and list the ones Melly put in her piece because, they're not shocking to us who've been stressing about how easy it would be to make the beginnings of so many little lives better. Here it is:
- $4.7 billion and 447 deaths due to sudden infant death syndrome.
- $2.6 billion due to 249 deaths from necrotizing enterocolitis, a common gastrointestinal syndrome in premature infants.
- $1.8 billion due to 172 excess deaths from lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia.
- $908 million due to otitis media (ear infection).
- $601 million due to atopic dermatitis (eczema).
- $592 million due to childhood obesity.
Here's what Marion wrote me about the Nursing Mothers' Council: As you know sometimes moms returning to work don't feel comfortable talking to their employer about their breasts. It's kind of the last thing we want to do, but we do have a responsibility to inform our employer that we will pump upon return to work. NMC can be a bridge between mom and her employer to help ease that transition. Ideally we get the employer to provide our services as an employee benefit.
Nursing Mothers Counsel is a non-profit organization that has just launched a program to help companies support employee breastfeeding as a natural and normal part of the corporate culture. We can work with you to develop a plan for our services that meets your needs while working within your budget. Contact, Marion Rice for more information, 503.708.0707 or marionrice @ me .com.
1. We help to build a supportive environment within your company by developing understanding of the business case for breastfeeding across key stakeholders.
2. We help develop employee policies regarding the use of a break room for employees that can also be used for breast milk expression and guide the company through a process of becoming a breastfeeding friendly employer to help limit exposure to potential complaints.
3. NMC assists companies in identifying space for on-site lactation rooms and developing a budget and plan to outfit the rooms for breast milk expression. We work with corporate representatives to identify space for the pumping station(s) that satisfy the Rest Periods for Expression of Breast Milk law requirements and result in happy employees and babies.
4. NMC is available to assist in ongoing support and education for employees returning to work and pumping through peer counseling and workplace coaching.