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Cost Benefits of Breastfeeding

Written by Karen M. Zeretzke, MEd, IBCLC   
Thursday, 01 September 2005 00:00
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Asked at a Blue Cross/Blue Shield health care cost containment in Minot, North Dakota: “What helps reduce the incidence of ear and respiratory infections, intestinal disease, pneumonia, meningitis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, diabetes, childhood cancers, allergies, constipation, urinary tract infections, tooth decay and obesity? It also increases intelligence and reduces the incidence of breast cancer for the mother.”

No one knew the answer was breastfeeding…

Today I would add that breastfeeding reduces ovarian and cervical cancer, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, bacterial and viral infections of all types and increases visual acuity, optimal neurological and social and oral development, as well as saves money for health care providers and families.


Cost Benefits of BreastfeedingCost Benefits of Breastfeeding

Medical costs for breastfed infants were ~$200 less per child for the first 12 months of life than those for formula-fed infants; extrapolating this to the Healthy People 2000 goal of 50% of infants breastfed could save this HMO up to $140,000 annually. This study included office visits, drug prescriptions and hospitalizations (Hoey and Ware, 1997).

Infant diarrhea in non-breastfed infants costs $291.3 million in annual health care costs. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) costs $225 million in annual health care costs. Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus costs from $9.6 to $124.8 million in annual health care costs.

Otitis media costs $660 million in annual health care costs.

Total annual cost of not breastfeeding: $1.186 to $1.301 billion

Additionally, formula provided by WIC program to non-breastfeeding mothers costs $2,665,715 annually. (Riordan, 1997)

Increasing breastfeeding in Australia could add A$3.4 billion to the national food output (equal to an extra 0.7% of the GNP). (Smith, 1997)

  • Reduction in childhood cancer saves $10 million
  • Reduction in childhood diarrhea $100 million
  • Reduction in ear infections $500 million
  • Reduction in tympanosomies $500 million
  • Reduction in juvenile onset diabetes $2.6 billion
  • Reduction in hospitalization for RSV $225 million

total conservative estimate of cost savings nationally for 1 year: $4.18 billion (Lee, 1997)

  • Cost savings in disease: $3.689 billion
  • Cost savings in health expenditures: $3.96 billion
  • Cost savings in household expenses: $2.835 billion
  • Breastfeeding Support costs (1 LC/1000; additional training; direct support): $360 million