Increases in breastfeeding may greatly reduce the burden of disease in New Zealand Aotearoa which translates into savings on health costs (Waring 2018; Walters, et al 2019; UNICEF United Kingdom 2012). Breastfeeding and breast milk have the potential to contribute at least NZD$3.2 billion to New Zealand’s GDP figures (Smith 2013).

A Cost of Not Breastfeeding Tool has been developed to help policy makers and advocates estimate the human and economic costs of not breastfeeding at the country, regional and global levels (Walters et al 2019).

Findings from WHO and partners estimate that global economic losses associated with not breastfeeding reached more than US$300 billion in 2012, equivalent to 0.49 percent of the world’s gross national income (Rollins et al 2016).

In 2018 the Commerce Commission estimated the public health cost savings arising if breastfeeding rates were maintained or improved over five years to be around $1 million, noting that this was an underestimation of the potential economic gains. The Commission also considered that the unquantified benefits, which included a broad range of public health improvements, may be substantial (Commerce Commission New Zealand 2018). 


Bartick M, Schwarz E, Green B, et al. 2017. Suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: Maternal and paediatric health outcomes and costs. Maternal & Child Nutrition. 13(1): 123–66.

Commerce Commission New Zealand. 2018. Draft determination on the Infant Nutrition Council application. Wellington: Commerce Commission New Zealand.

Rollins N, Bhandari N, Hajeebhoy N, et al.  2016. Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? The Lancet. 387(10017): 491–504.

Smith J. 2013. “Lost Milk?” Counting the economic value of breast milk in gross domestic product. Journal of Human Lactation. 29(4): 537–46.

UNICEF United Kingdom. 2012. Preventing disease and saving resources: The potential contribution of increasing breastfeeding rates in the UK. UK: UNICEF.

Walters D, Phan L, Mathisen R. 2019. The cost of not breastfeeding: Global results from a new tool. Health Policy and Planning. 34(6): 407–17.

Waring M. 2018. Still Counting: Wellbeing, Women’s Work and Policy-making. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books Limited.