The International Breastfeeding Journal has recently published a series called Economic Aspects of Breastfeeding. The articles and commentaries in this series provide information for policy makers and others on how breastfeeding can lead to health care and other cost savings. These articles also raise awareness among academics and the wider community, highlighting a new and publicly relevant area of research.
One of the articles in this 2015 series is the study by Rouw, Hormann, and Scherbaum entitled: The High Cost of Half-Hearted Breastfeeding Promotion in Germany. The authors describe how 90% of mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth, yet very quickly after hospital discharge these rates fall and neither exclusive breastfeeding, nor duration, come close to the WHO/UNICEF infant feeding recommendations. In Germany, breastfeeding is regarded as a woman’s personal decision. There is a growing number of certified Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) hospitals and there is a comprehensive maternity leave policy. However, the costs of breastfeeding are mostly borne by the mothers and the cost of breastfeeding training by individual health care workers or hospitals.
On the other hand, the health insurance companies and society-at-large profit from the financial savings of exclusive and long-term breastfeeding. The authors note that the factors that might improve breastfeeding rates and duration in Germany include: financial support and expansion of both BFHI hospitals as well as training for the health care personnel who support mother-infant dyads during the breastfeeding period.
The authors conclude this study with wise words, "As long as words are not followed up by deeds, and praise for breastfeeding is not followed up by financial support of breastfeeding initiatives, many mothers will not be able to achieve their own breastfeeding goals nor will the UNICEF/WHO recommendations for breastfeeding be achieved by most of them. With proven preventive effects for acute and chronic diseases, breastfeeding is cost effective as a disease prevention measure. Investment in breastfeeding support would certainly pay for itself.”
You can read the complete article at http://www.internationalbreastfeedingjournal.com/content/9/1/22 and you can find the complete Economic Aspects of Breastfeeding series at http://www.biomedcentral.com/series/Economicaspects and we hope you share the information with your colleagues and policy makers.
Rouw, E., Hormann, E., & Scherbaum, V. (2015). The high cost of half-hearted breastfeeding promotion in Germany. International Breastfeeding Journal, 9:22-27