Study finds life-saving benefits to breastfeeding

(NBC) – You've heard for years that breast-feeding is good for babies, but did you know it can also save lives and billions of dollars?

A new study from Harvard researchers found breast-feeding for at least the first few months could benefit both baby and mother.

Right now three out of four new mothers start breast-feeding, but six months later just over one in ten are still doing it exclusively.

The Harvard study finds if 90 percent of all mothers breast-fed during those first six months it could save 900 lives and $13 billion each year.

Experts say a better support structure for nursing mothers is needed.

They suggest allowing women to breast feed immediately after birth and providing time and space for mothers to pump breast milk while at work.

The study says breast-fed babies have a lower risk of asthma, diabetes, diarrhea and ear infections.

It claims their moms are healthier, too.

"The longer a woman breast feeds the lower her risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cardiovascular disease in general," noted Dr. Melissa Bartick.

Some positives steps are already being taken.

As part of a new policy starting this month, breast-feeding may be considered in whether a hospital receives accreditation.

The new health care law requires large employers to provide private space for women to pump breast milk, and breast-feeding policies may be considered when hospitals receive accreditation.

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