Thomas M.Ball, MD,MPH and David M.Bennett, RPH , MSA


     Although breastfeeding is well accepted as the optimal method of infants feeding, the US failed to reach the goals set for the year 2000. Support from employers, health insurers, health providers, and society are required to reach the goals set forth in Healthy People 2010-75% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, 50% of infants still receive breast milk at 6 months, and 25% of infants are still breasted at 1 year of age. In today's era of cost accountability and economic competition, these groups likely will desire information regarding the financial effects of breastfeeding and  breastfeeding promotion from their perspectives.

      Although much research still is needed in this area, evidence suggests that a significant return on investment is likely with breastfeeding promotion. Also, the finances of health care must be viewed within the concept of value. In health care, value can be through of as the cost required to achieve  a specified outcome. In lay terms, this can be thought of as "how much bang we get for our buck."  Breastfeeding clearly improves the health of infants and mothers and seems to result in cost savings for parents, insures, employers, and society, which means that the medical and economic value of breastfeeding is high.

     To reap the health and economic benefits associated with breastfeeding, society must support  breastfeeding promotion, which most likely will necessitate a coordinated US breastfeeding program .The US government is in a unique position to accomplish this goal as it views the associated costs from the joint perspectives of employer, health insurer, medical provider, and society. Through support of such a program, the US government likely will benefit significantly by improving the health of children and its financial bottom line.

(The Pediatric Clinic of North America)


Volume 48.Number1.February 2001