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The Cost of Not Breastfeeding

April 2015

Have you ever thought about how expensive it is to not breastfeed? "Infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice" (AAP, 2012).  Artificial baby milks can provide acceptable nutrition, while at the same time causing health risks for both mother and infant.

Most countries have accepted the UNICEF and WHO recommendation to establish a National Breastfeeding Coalition, and many have been successful in establishing committees to guide the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Many mothers find, though, that support for breastfeeding is something they must seek and often pay out-of-pocket to receive. This is an oft-sited reason for mothers not meeting their own breastfeeding goals.

Breastfeeding has a monetary value. Over 20 years ago, the value of human milk produced in Australia totaled $1.9 billion US. In the United States, the costs of hospitalization caused by necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood asthma, childhood leukemia, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and childhood obesity for 2007 were $13 billion. Bartick and Reinhold concluded that "If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance)."

A 2014 study by Rouw, Hormann, and Scherbaum determined that Germany's breastfeeding initiation rate was 90% but very quickly fell following hospital discharge. Breastfeeding there continues to be a mother's personal decision. Germany provides breastfeeding support in the hospital, in the community, as well as maternity leave programs. German laws have been enacted to provide support in the workplace as well as protection of the public from misleading advertisements from the formula industry. However, support for breastfeeding is not considered a governmental task, and funding which applies to other health prevention programs is not dedicated to breastfeeding. In the conclusion of this study, the authors say, "As long as words are not followed up by deeds, and praise for breastfeeding is not followed up by financial support of breastfeeding initiatives, many mothers will not be able to achieve their own breastfeeding goals nor will the UNICEF/WHO recommendations for breastfeeding be achieved by most of them. With proven preventive effects for acute and chronic diseases, breastfeeding is cost effective as a disease prevention measure. Investment in breastfeeding support would certainly pay for itself."

Well said! And I would venture a guess that this is true for most counties on the planet.

Kathy

Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA
Course Tutor, Step2 Education

 

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3): e827-e841.

Rouw, E., Hormann, E., & Scherbaum, V. (2014). The high cost of half-hearted breastfeeding promotion in Germany. International Breastfeeding Journal, 9:22-27.

Bartick M, Reinhold A. (2010). The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Journal of Human Lactation 2010

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