No child is safe from illness whether breastfed or not. Even so, there’s no doubt that breast is best and breast milk boosts children’s immunity and IQ.*

Here are some convincing numbers from the United States Breastfeeding Committee report, Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding (pdf), 2002:

  • For private and government insurers, a minimum of $3.6 billion must be paid each year to treat diseases and conditions preventable by breastfeeding.
  • Excess use of health care services attributable to formula feeding costs an HMO between $331 and $475 per never-breastfed infant for lower-respiratory illness, otitis media, and gastrointestinal illness.
  • $200,000 is spent for each case of necrotizing enterocolitis, with a 10.1 percent occurrence in formula-fed babies and a 1.2 percent rate in breastfed babies.
  • Additional health care costs for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in formula-fed children, assuming a 2-28 percent IDDM rate attributable to not breastfeeding: a low estimate of $1,185,900,000 and a high estimate of $1,301,100,000.
  • Better vision, fewer cavities in teeth, and less malocclusion requiring braces in children who have been breastfed.

I’m always puzzled when I hear mothers exclaim over their children getting sick “even though” they were breastfed. Breastfeeding is not a magic bullet and won’t protect our kids from ever getting sick. In fact, a few minor colds here and there help challenge their immune systems and make them even stronger.

And, of course, given my background, I believe that genes most likely play a role in how well our kids are able to fight off germies. For that, we have only ourselves, the parents, to blame.

*If you know me at all, you know I’m no boob nazi. I’m all for freedom of choice as long as it’s an educated one.


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