Potential economic impacts from improving breastfeeding rates in the UK

S. Pokhrel (Lead / Corresponding author), M. A. Quigley, J. Fox-Rushby, F. McCormick, A. Williams, P. Trueman, R. Dodds, Mary Renfrew

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RATIONALE: Studies suggest that increased breastfeeding rates can provide substantial financial savings, but the scale of such savings in the UK is not known.

OBJECTIVE: To calculate potential cost savings attributable to increases in breastfeeding rates from the National Health Service perspective.

DESIGN AND SETTINGS: Cost savings focussed on where evidence of health benefit is strongest: reductions in gastrointestinal and lower respiratory tract infections, acute otitis media in infants, necrotising enterocolitis in preterm babies and breast cancer (BC) in women. Savings were estimated using a seven-step framework in which an incidence-based disease model determined the number of cases that could have been avoided if breastfeeding rates were increased. Point estimates of cost savings were subject to a deterministic sensitivity analysis.

RESULTS: Treating the four acute diseases in children costs the UK at least £89 million annually. The 2009-2010 value of lifetime costs of treating maternal BC is estimated at £959 million. Supporting mothers who are exclusively breast feeding at 1 week to continue breast feeding until 4 months can be expected to reduce the incidence of three childhood infectious diseases and save at least £11 million annually. Doubling the proportion of mothers currently breast feeding for 7-18 months in their lifetime is likely to reduce the incidence of maternal BC and save at least £31 million at 2009-2010 value.

CONCLUSIONS: The economic impact of low breastfeeding rates is substantial. Investing in services that support women who want to breast feed for longer is potentially cost saving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-340
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Issue number4
Early online date4 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


Cite this

Pokhrel, S., Quigley, M. A., Fox-Rushby, J., McCormick, F., Williams, A., Trueman, P., Dodds, R., & Renfrew, M. (2015). Potential economic impacts from improving breastfeeding rates in the UK. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 100(4), 334-340. https://doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2014-306701