Higher breastfeeding rates would significantly improve the health of the nation. This alone is an excellent reason to remove obstacles to successful breastfeeding, even if it means increased spending in the short term.

Savings associated with increased breastfeeding could also release funds for training and other areas of care.

A UNICEF report, Preventing Disease and Saving Resources, published in 2012, examined how raising breastfeeding rates could save money through improving health outcomes.

The authors' calculations show that moderate increases in breastfeeding could see millions in potential annual savings to the NHS – and that figure might only be the tip of the iceberg.

The report findings show that for just five illnesses, moderate increases in breastfeeding would translate into cost savings for the NHS of £40 million and tens of thousands of fewer hospital admissions and GP consultations.

Read the full report here.

US breastfeeding rates are similar to the UK, but health-care costs are likely to be significantly different. A 2010 report assessing the economic benefits of breastfeeding (1), estimated that around $13 billion would be saved if breastfeeding were increased from current levels to 90 per cent of women breastfeeding exclusively for six months. The analysis studied the prevalence of 10 common childhood illnesses, costs of treating those diseases, including hospitalization, and the level of disease protection other studies have linked with breast-feeding.

References

1. Bartick M, Reinhold A, The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics. 2010 May;125(5):e1048-56.