Figures suggest that the health of a mother and baby can be improved by increasing the time women breastfeed, therefore cutting down costs for the NHS.
The analysis was conducted by Unicef UK who believe there is a “strong economic case” for supporting more women to breastfeed. Findings show that £11m could be saved every year by preventing infections. The Department of Health said it was “absolutely crucial” that new mothers received the support they needed. Unicef has been researching the health benefits of breast milk on a much larger scale, and this analysis is just a small part of the bigger picture.
The findings found showed that breastfeeding was protective against gastrointestinal and lower respiratory tract and ear infections in infants. Researchers across the UK have investigated the cost to the NHS for dealing with problems of infections, and results were that £89m was spent every year, trying to treat them.
£4m a year in hospital and GP bills could be saved if 21% of mothers who breastfed for six weeks, continued to four months. Currently, only 7% of mothers still breastfeed their baby until they are four months, although 81% of mothers actually do start breastfeeding. Surveys show that many mothers would like to continue breastfeeding, but problems arise to stop them from carrying on.
The NHS will save money if you breastfeed
The NHS spend £960m a year to treat breast cancer in women who have given births. This could be reduced by £31m if a third of women breastfed one child or more for longer than seven months. Currently, the UK is one of the lowest countries for the percentage of mothers still breastfeeding at six months (34%), while 80% of mothers who live in Norway and 60% of mothers who live in Australia still breastfed at six months.
Researchers believe the findings should “reassure policy-makers, service planners and commissioners that a rapid return on investment is realistic and feasible”. Rosemary Dodds, the senior policy adviser at the charity NCT and co-author of the study, says
“The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said women should be getting proactive support, but that is not happening all over the country, and one of the reasons is data collection – those working in the community do not know who has had a baby”.
The NCT have considered creating breastfeeding cafe’s where pregnant women could go to see the realities of it and mothers breastfeeding can go to not be judged. Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “The health and economic benefits of breastfeeding are clear and it is absolutely crucial that new mothers get support with breastfeeding.
Thousands of extra NHS midwives and health visitors have been trained, in order to provide support to new mothers wanting to breastfeed and to promote the advantages breastfeeding can have on both mother and baby.