An Ounce of Prevention. Supporting Breastfeeding Saves Money

Written by Jennifer Shaer MD., FAAP., IBCLC

Why don’t insurance companies cover breastfeeding services? As a pediatrician and breastfeeding medicine specialist, I’d like to add my perspective to the discussion. I do not want to detail the health benefits of breastfeeding. The benefits are numerous and deserve a separate story. My goal here is to point out that supporting breastfeeding saves the country money.

I would like to bring attention to a couple of publications. The Department of Health and Human Services has a publication called “The Business Case for Breastfeeding”. This publication highlights the financial benefits to breastfeeding. It shows how breastfeeding working mothers have lower absentee rates and lower turnover rates. Breastfed babies utilize fewer healthcare dollars. The publication features a number of companies that have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually simply by implementing lactation support programs in the worksite. You can view this publication here .

Just last year there was a study titled “The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis”(PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-1616)) reported that if 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion dollars per year.

The evidence is clear. Breastfeeding improves health, saves money for insurance companies, for corporations, for parents and for WIC programs. Investing a small amount of money to support breastfeeding will bring huge financial savings to us as a nation. Why are the insurance companies too short -sighted to see the benefits of supporting breastfeeding?

Dr. Shaer is a pediatrician and a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). She is director of the Breastfeeding Medicine Center of Allied Pediatrics of New York. Dr. Shaer is dedicated to helping nursing mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals.