Why are diabetes cost are going through the roof? According to an article in the New York Times, it is costing us $174 billion dollars a year to cover the health costs of people who have developed diabetes in their life time. More and more of our population is developing diabetes. ““Diabetes is the noninfectious epidemic of our time,” said Dr. Ronald Loeppke, vice chairman of U.S. Preventive Medicine, a company that offers wellness and prevention programs to employers and individuals.” What can be done about this? The article does summarize some of the things a person can do to stay healthy. “The good news, said Dr. Loeppke, is that 80 percent of Type 2 diabetes in the United States can be prevented with three steps that do not have to cost money: stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.” I think all of these suggestions are great, but what was astonishing to me is they did not mention breastfeeding as a prevention. I kept scanning the article thinking I must have missed the reference to breastfeeding, but nope. It wasn’t there. In our area, they are building a bigger and better hospital which includes a HUGE area to help care for our diabetic population. As stated in this article, they see the need for care increasing massively over time.
OK, what else can we do? We can exercise, eat healthier, not smoke. AND we can BREASTFEED our babies. Breastfeeding can help with diabetes protection in three unique ways. First of all, if a mother develops gestational diabetes during pregnancy, the longer she breastfeeds post-natally will help protect her from developing type 2 diabetes herself. The longer she nurses, the better the protection. Secondly, breastfeeding will help prevent her baby from developing Type 1 AND Type 2 diabetes in their life time. Again, longer is better. Many breastfeeding benefits are great if a mother breastfeeds for even 1 month. What many families are not aware of is that breastfeeding protection is dosage related. A little is great, more is fabulous! We forget that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 moths, then slowing introducing solids, and continuing breastfeeding for at least one year. The World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least two years.
Why is breastfeeding not being emphasized as a protective health benefit? Are we worried about making families feel guilty? Is there very little money to be made and a TON of money to be saved (I wonder how the pharmaceutical companies feel about that!) If we saved the billions of dollars we hear about from breastfeeding, many medical businesses would be struggling. Who are we really trying to protect? Our mothers? Our babies? Our economy? Breastfeeding will help protect all of these.