The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women fed their babies breast milk only for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.
Those startling results, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, are only an estimate. But several experts who reviewed the analysis said the methods and conclusions seem sound.
"The health care system has got to be aware that breast-feeding makes a profound difference," said Dr. Ruth Lawrence, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section, The Associated Press reported.
Government guidelines recommend that mothers feed their babies nothing but breast milk for their first six months. Only 12 percent of American mothers take that advice to heart, but 43 percent breast-feed for at least part of those early months of life.
The study set the figure of $23 billion in estimated losses due to the costs of treating illnesses that might not have occurred and $10.5 million for the lost wages of each infant whose death could have been prevented.
If doctors, health departments, parenting magazines and other information sources promoted breast-feeding as they should, 90 percent of mothers might make the right choice, saving money and lives, Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Dr Larry Gray, a University of Chicago pediatrician,said the analysis was 'compelling'.
But he said mothers who do not breastfeed for six months should not be blamed or made to feel guilty, because their jobs and other demands often make it impossible to do so.
'We'd all love as pediatricians to be able to carry this information into the boardrooms by saying we all gain by small changes at the workplace,' he said, according to Daily Mail.