Breastfeeding and Saving Lives

Many studies have demonstrated a variety of benefits from breastfeeding, including lowering the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The first study linking breastfeeding with overall lower infant mortality was presented at the Pediatric Academic Society meeting in San Francisco on May 2, 2004 (Dr. Benjamin’s Spock’s birthday). Most babies do well however they are fed.

But, an analysis of 8944 U.S. babies demonstrated that those who were breastfed had a 21 percent lower chance of dying for any reason during the first year. Detailed results of the study appear online in the May, 2004 Pediatrics.

The longer children were breastfed, the greater the effect.

In the study, the risk of death from SIDS was reduced by 16 percent in breastfed babies; the risk of death from injury by 31 percent. The good news is that among non-breastfed babies in the U.S., age one month to one year, about 997.3 out of 1000 will survive. Among those who are breastfed, about 997.9 will survive.

The 0.6 per 1000 difference seems small, but with about 4 million babies born each year, this difference would be about 2,400 babies lives in the U.S. alone. Around the world, 132 to 135 million babies are born each year . 97 out of 100 babies are not born in the U.S.

On May 3, 2004 the estimated U.S. population is over 293 million. But the world population is 6.4 billion. More than 19 out of twenty people in the world do not live in the U.S.

Encouraging breastfeeding is an important part of improving children’s health around the world.

Published on: May 03, 2004
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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