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Breastfeeding is a good investment for government

Breastfeeding is a good investment for government

10 December 2013

A global investment of USD17.5 billion a year in comprehensive breastfeeding support programmes can protect millions of babies and their mothers from premature death and illness, and save on health costs, suggests a report by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).

The report entitled “The Need to Invest in Babies – A Global Drive for Financial Investment in Children’s Health and Development through Universalizing Interventions for Optimal Breastfeeding” estimates the costs of universally implementing a wide platform of measures for optimal breastfeeding. It also provides an excel-based, comprehensive ‘financial planning tool’ that will assist governments to cost interventions accurately, as well as help them plan and prioritise actions according to local needs.

Dr Julie Smith, an economist at the Australian National University and co-author of the report, says “Women produce around 23 billion litres of human milk a year worldwide, a ‘health food’ for babies and young children that is far better than anything from industry. But breastfeeding is not free. We must invest more in supporting new mothers in ways that make exclusive breastfeeding practicable for them.”

In New Zealand the Ministry of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding until babies are around six months old –and then complementary foods (solids) and also continued breastfeeding until they’re at least one year or older. Yet, Plunket data show a dramatic drop in breastfeeding rates in the first six weeks for all ethnic groups, but with the fall off greatest among Maori and Pacific women. Exclusive breastfeeding rates at three and six months are only 42 percent and 16 percent respectively.

A launch of the report is planned in New Zealand in February.

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