Breastfeeding might be the most natural thing in the world, but that does not mean it also isn’t hard and time-consuming and, to many mums, a real struggle.
So support is needed. Breastfeeding mums are doing an incredible job – and not just for their babies’ health and their own wellbeing, but also, as it turns out, for the global economy.
Tep, that’s right. Your boobs are saving us all money, mama.
According to a new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters it is suggested that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year, writes Mother.ly.
The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through “through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices.” To be clear, the site isn’t targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it’s a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.
The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.
Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. For instance, in the U.S., where only 24 percent of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.
Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children’s lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.
Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it’s hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool’s developer, health economist Dylan Walters.
“We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being,” Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive’s website. “Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society.”
The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.