A new UK report finds that if more mothers were to breastfeed, not only would it save the National Health Service (NHS) millions of pounds, it would reduce illness in both babies and new moms.
In research commissioned by UNICEF UK, announced Wednesday, it was found that even a moderate increase in breastfeeding rates could result in at least £40 million cut from health budgets.
Currently the NHS recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for six months and then continue breastfeeding while also introducing other foods.
Breastfeeding has been found to protect babies from chest and ear infections, as well as eczema and obesity later in life. For mothers, it can lower the risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
The report found that if mothers who currently do not breastfeed were to do so for up to 18 months, there would be 865 fewer cases of breast cancer in the UK. Also, if 45 percent of babies were breastfed for four months, and 75 percent of babies in neonatal units were breastfed at discharge every year, 3,285 fewer babies would be hospitalized with gastroenteritis. Also, there’d be 5,916 fewer babies hospitalized with respiratory illness, and 21,945 fewer doctor visits for ear infections.
“We know that 90 percent of women who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks discontinued before they had wanted to,” says Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK.
“This research shines a spotlight on the profound protective effects which breastfeeding has on both mother and child,” adds Mary Renfrew of Dundee University, who led the research team. “It is clear that putting resources into supporting women to breastfeed successfully would be hugely cost effective to the NHS, as well as preventing the distress and pain felt by a mother who has a bad experience of breastfeeding.”