Objective: To determine the potential cost savings for four social service programs if breast-feeding rates increased among Hmong women in California.
Design: Cost-savings analysis.
Subjects/setting: Hmong women in California. In this population, breast-feeding is currently uncommon, and use of contraceptives is minimal.
Main outcome measures: Savings were based on estimates of the resulting decrease in infant morbidity, maternal fertility, and formula purchases (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) if women breast-fed each child for at least 6 months. Costs were projected over a 7.5-year period and future values were discounted with annual interest rates of 2% or 4%.
Results: Substantial savings estimates were associated with breast-feeding for all four programs. The total projected savings over the 7.5-year period ranges from $3,442 to $4,944 (4% discount) to $4,475 to $6,0960 (0% discount) per family enrolled in all four programs. This translates into an estimated yearly savings of between $459 and $659 (4% discount) and $597 and $808 (0% discount) per family.
Applications: Although health care providers generally accept that breast-feeding is the preferred method for feeding infants, many still view the choice as a neutral one; that is, they consider low breast-feeding rates in the United States a cultural choice with no cost to society. This analysis provides evidence that breast-feeding is economically advantageous for individuals and society.