New UNICEF UK report reveals breastfeeding could save
the NHS millions
A major new piece of research, released today and commissioned
by UNICEF UK, reveals that low breastfeeding rates in the UK
are costing the NHS millions of pounds.
The report, Preventing disease and saving resources:
the potential contribution of increasing breastfeeding rates
in the UK, takes an in-depth look at how raising
breastfeeding rates would save money through reducing illness.
Calculations from a mere handful of illnesses, where the evidence
is strongest, show that moderate increases in breastfeeding
could see potential annual savings to the NHS of millions of
pounds per year. However, this is likely to be only the tip
of the iceberg when the full range of conditions affected by
breastfeeding are taken into account.
The report has been produced over the last two years by a
multi-university academic team including Dundee University,
Oxford University, University of York, Brunel University, and
St George’s, University of London, as well as the National
The report findings show:
- For just five illnesses (breast cancer in the mother,
and gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, middle ear infections
and necrotising enterecolitis (NEC) in the baby),
moderate increases in breastfeeding would translate into cost
savings for the NHS of £40 million and tens of thousands
fewer hospital admissions and GP consultations.
- Narrative analyses on three conditions - cognitive
ability, childhood obesity and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
(SIDS) – indicate that modest improvements
in breastfeeding rates would have significant impacts on these
outcomes worth millions of pounds and, in the case of SIDS,
- A further set of eight outcomes, including, diabetes,
cardiovascular disease, ovarian cancer and asthma,
had a plausible link between breastfeeding and reduced incidence,
but stronger evidence is needed. The authors suggest these
could form an agenda for further research.