A Case for Breastfeeding Innovation

Breastfeeding saves lives.  

If women globally were able to meet the WHO's public health goal to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, we would prevent 823,000 infant deaths. For every 597 women who optimally breastfeed, one maternal or child death is prevented¹.

Breastfeeding promotes long-term wellness for mother and baby.

Breastfeeding protects against child infections and malocclusion, increases intelligence, and reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes for children¹. Breastfeeding decreases mothers' risk of breast cancer and optimal breastfeeding would lead to 20,000 fewer cases every year¹. It may also protect against ovarian cancer and diabetes¹. Women who are supported to successfully establish breastfeeding in early months have a lower risk for postpartum depression².

Breastfeeding saves healthcare costs.

If women in the US were able to meet the WHO's public health goal to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, we would save $17.2 billion dollars in annual costs treating preventable events, including infant and maternal deaths, SIDS, ear infections and necrotizing enterocolitis in babies, and heart attacks, diabetes and breast cancer in mothers³.

Work environments and policies in the US are hostile to breastfeeding.

The US is one of only three nations worldwide without paid parental leave. The other countries in this club are Papua New Guinea and Lesotho⁴. Women's return to work outside the home is the leading factor for early weaning⁵. Most US work environments do not provide material or policy-based support for breastfeeding women, including parental leave, flexible schedules, on-site daycare, breaks and spaces for nursing and pumping⁵.

These are opportunities. Breastfeeding innovation means investing in research and tech, changing public and private policy and shifting social norms. 



  1. Bartick, M. C., Schwarz, E. B., Green, B. D., Jegier, B. J., Reinhold, A. G., Colaizy, T. T., Stuebe, A. M. (2017). Suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: Maternal and pediatric health outcomes and costs. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 13(1), e12366. http://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12366

  2. Watkins, S., Meltzer-Brody, S., Zolnoun, D., & Stuebe, A. (2011). Early Breastfeeding Experiences and Postpartum Depression. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 118(2, Part 1), 214–221. http://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182260a2d

  3. Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. Victora, Cesar G et al. The Lancet, Volume 387, Issue 10017, 475 - 490.

  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

  5. Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? Rollins, Nigel C et al. The Lancet , Volume 387, Issue 10017, 491 - 504.