Sammy Nickalls
January 31, 2016 9:26 am

Breastfeeding in public — and the stigma surrounding it — was at the forefront of the conversation in 2015, and it’s looking as though it will be in 2016, too. Now, new research shows that there is an entirely new reason why we need to stop shaming women who breastfeed in public. . . because it saves lives.

According to a new study published in leading medical journal The Lancet, breastfeeding could save 820,000 lives by laying a healthy foundation for children, especially in countries with high infant mortality. However, it also has major benefits in higher-income countries; a mother’s breastmilk can give her child elements of her own immune responses that could last throughout the baby’s life.

On top of this, breastfeeding was shown to increase intelligence in children by 3 IQ points across all income levels, “which studies have shown translates to improved academic performance, increased [long-term] earnings and productivity,” Huffington Post notes.

And the benefits of breastfeeding don’t only apply to babies. According to the study, mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, with almost 20,000 less deaths from breast cancer each year and another potential 20,000 less after implementing improved breastfeeding practices.

Breastfeeding could also have a majorly great impact on the economy. The study found that breastfeeding can add $302 billion into the global economy, with massive healthcare savings totaling to $48 million in the United Kingdom and $312 million in the United States. And the costs of not breastfeeding are just as high — a total of $302 billion.

In other words, those who shame mothers who breastfeed are negatively impacting not only the mortality rate of our world, but the economy as well. Breastfeeding is an essential part of making the globe not only accepting and loving, but healthy and wealthy.

“The reasons why women avoid or stop breastfeeding range from the medical, cultural, and psychological, to physical discomfort and inconvenience. These matters are not trivial, and many mothers without support turn to a bottle of formula,” the researchers wrote. “Multiplied across populations and involving multinational commercial interests, this situation has catastrophic consequences on breastfeeding rates and the health of subsequent generations.”

It’s important to note that, although this is great news for women who breastfeed, we should not use it to shame mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding isn’t something that works for every mother, whether they choose not to or are physically unable to, and it’s essential to support ALL mothers in their own personal decisions. However, if a mother chooses to breastfeed, she should be able to nurture her child — not only for her own comfort and well-being, but for her child’s and her world’s.

“There are glimmers of hope,” the researchers wrote. “. . . [G]enuine and urgent commitment is needed from governments and health authorities to establish a new normal: where every woman can expect to breastfeed, and to receive every support she needs to do so.”

(Image via Shutterstock.)

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