Economic arguments for breastfeeding
The economic case for promoting breastfeeding is overwhelming.
Contribution to the economy
In Australia, current breast milk production levels exceed $3 billion annually1. The value of human milk production equals between 5-7% of food consumption1. There is an estimated loss in economic value of $4billion in Australia due to premature weaning1.
Cost of not breastfeeding
Not breastfeeding led to estimated costs of $1-2 million to the hospital system in the Australian Capital Territory ('95-'96) due to four conditions – gastrointestinal illness, respiratory illness, eczema and necrotising enterocolitis.2
Savings to the health care system
A recent US analysis found that if 90% of families could exclusively breastfeed for the recommended 6 months, US$13 billion per year could be saved and 911 deaths prevented.1
Health outcomes of breastfeeding
Protective effects of breastfeeding in infancy reduce the risk of illness and may extend to later life, with reduced risks of obesity and chronic disease.
Work and productivity
Mothers who do not breastfeed have more days off work to care for sick children.
See Dr Julie Smith's presentation slides 'The economic importance of breastfeeding' from the Breastfeeding Every Drop Counts event held in Tasmania in 2010.
The economic importance of breastfeeding is largely due to health outcomes for both mother and child. Artificial feeding is associated with increased health risks. In developed countries it is estimated that babies not breastfed have twice the likelihood of illness than breastfed babies. These illnesses cost individuals emotionally, physically and escalate health care costs. Breastfeeding reduces the health system costs for the community.
 Smith J "Lost Milk?" : Counting the Economic Value of Breast Milk in Gross Domestic Product. Journal of Human Lactation published online 12 July 2013.
 Smith J, Thompson J and Ellwood D. Hospital system costs of artificial infant feeding: estimates for the Australian Capital Territory. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2002;26:6.
The loss of economic value in Australia due to premature weaning
Are you a parent needing help?
Click here to visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association website for information and support