Breast feeding saves lives, money says study, East Texans agree

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Results, published in journal Pediatrics, say if 90% of American women breast fed, the lives of 900 babies would be saved, along with billions of dollars. While the findings are only an estimate, an East Texas lactation consultant says nursing can have a huge impact on a child's life.

With her new baby not even a day old, East Texas mother, Noel Weems, says the decision to breast feed her second son was an easy one, after nursing her first son. "I loved nursing him," she said. "He was so easy and convenient...without a doubt, we knew we were going to do it again."

Women like Weems are the minority in the U.S. The journal Pediatric, findings suggest only 12% of U.S. women follow government breast feeding guidelines, recommending babies drink only breast milk for six months. Rita Upshaw, a Lactation Consultant at ETMC, said, "If breast feeding were just food, just nourishment, you could probably duplicate that in an artificial breast milk, but it's not. It is your infant's immune system." She says breast feeding can prevent illnesses ranging from stomach viruses to asthma and juvenile diabetes. Upshaw added, "We are talking about billions of dollars of savings and health care costs. Not just hundreds and thousands, but billions of dollars."

Upshaw says breast feeding does not come easy to all mothers. Drew Crain was born pre-mature. His mom, Danielle Crain, said she tried everything to make nursing work. "We had to give up after four months, and that was extremely difficult...the bond that I felt with him was indescribable. That was the hardest thing to give up," said Crain. Expecting in July, Danielle is determined to try again.

Experts like Upshaw say there are encouraging signs for all women. The government's new health care overhaul requires large employers to provide private places for working moms to pump their milk. "It has to be a more socially acceptable thing," said Upshaw. She wants it to be acceptable and natural for the next generation of expecting moms.

Under a new provision enacted by the Joint Commission, hospitals may be evaluated on their efforts to make sure newborns are fed only breast milk before they're sent home.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.