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, 97 (4), 379-85

Economic Benefit of Breast-Feeding Infants Enrolled in WIC

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Economic Benefit of Breast-Feeding Infants Enrolled in WIC

D L Montgomery et al. J Am Diet Assoc.

Abstract

Objectives: To determine whether breast-feeding of infants enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is associated with a reduction in Medicaid expenditures during the first 6 months of life; if so, to determine whether the reduction in Medicaid expenditures represents a positive economic benefit to society when WIC costs for these infants and their mothers are considered.

Design: Cohorts of exclusively breast-fed and formula-fed infants were tracked for 6 months to compare WIC costs and Medicaid expenditures.

Subjects: The sample consisted of 406 healthy infants who were breast-fed exclusively for at least 3 months and 470 healthy infants who were formula-fed exclusively. The infants, born between August 1, 1993, and December 31, 1993, were enrolled in WIC and Medicaid. COST AND BENEFIT MEASURES: WIC costs included redeemed WIC vouchers for formula and foods for infants and mothers, plus administrative expenses for 6 months, minus manufacturers' rebates for formula. Benefit was determined from Medicaid expenditures for health care initiated in the first 180 days of each infant's life. STATISTICAL AND BENEFIT-COST ANALYSES: Economic benefit was calculated as net benefit and as benefit-cost ratios. Regression techniques were used to estimate Medicaid expenditures associated with breast-feeding, adjusted for demographic and prenatal care variables.

Results: Compared with formula-feeding, breast-feeding each infant enrolled in WIC saved $478 in WIC costs and Medicaid expenditures during the first 6 months of the infant's life, or $161 after consideration of the formula manufacturer's rebate. A Medicaid cost saving of $112 per infant was realized by the breast-feeding cohort, and Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement costs for breast-fed infants were significantly lower-half that of formula-fed infants.

Applications: The promotion of breast-feeding among low-income populations through nutrition programs such as WIC is an effective cost-containment measure.

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