The Global Cost of Not Breastfeeding

The Global Cost of Not Breastfeeding

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Globally, not breastfeeding leads to economic losses of US $1.5 billion per day

Exclusive breastfeeding is a cornerstone of child survival and health, providing essential, irreplaceable nutrition for a child’s growth, resilience and development. It serves as a child’s first immunization, providing protection from respiratory infections, diarrhoeal disease and other potentially life-threatening ailments, and prevents obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, together with appropriate, adequate and safe complementary foods.

Despite its importance, breastfeeding rates remain below recommended targets. In 2012, the World Health Assembly (WHA) set a global nutrition target to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50% by 2025. As of 2021, the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding is 44% and only 35 countries were on course to meet the global target.

Not breastfeeding has significant health and economic impacts. The Cost of Not Breastfeeding Tool is an evidence-based modelling tool that uses open-access data to estimate the health and economic costs of not protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. First launched in 2019, the tool was the first-of-its-kind and used by organizations around the world to develop guidelines and make recommendations to increase breastfeeding rates globally. A new and updated version of the tool, available on both the Nutrition International and Alive & Thrive websites, contains updated datasets, new indicators, a new function to calculate results for different scenarios or targets, and online access to the results for more than 180 countries. This brief outlines the key findings from this updated tool, as well as highlights results for a few selected countries.

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