Ball TM, Bennett DM.
Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001 Feb;48(1):253-62.
Health care expenditures have increased dramatically from 5% to 13.5% of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States since 1960.16 As a result, more attention has focused on the costs of medical care, which, in turn, has led to interest in evaluating the cost-effectiveness of many medical and preventive health therapies.
Breastfeeding is associated with several health benefits for infants and mothers. Compared with formula-fed infants, breastfed infants experience less acute and chronic otitis media, bronchiolitis, diarrhea, meningitis, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Children who were breastfed during infancy suffer less recurrent wheezing, have a higher IQ, and develop insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus less frequently than those who are fed formula. Also, fewer breastfeeding mothers develop ovarian cancer and bone demineralization than do women who do not breastfeed their infants.
Because the diagnosis and treatment of these illnesses result in medical care use, health care expenditures likely would be reduced with successful breastfeeding promotion. At the same time, improving the rate of breastfeeding will likely require some capital investment by certain sectors, such as employers and health insurers. Therefore, economic analyses that accurately estimate the costs and savings attributable to breastfeeding would be helpful to decision makers as they consider breastfeeding-friendly policies and programs.
This article reviews concepts important to understanding the medical economics of breastfeeding. Relevant cost data are summarized from the perspectives of infant and parent, health care payer, employer, and society. Improved breastfeeding promotion is expected to be a source of significant cost savings for the United States economy.