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Int Breastfeed J. 2015 Feb 23;10:8. doi: 10.1186/s13006-015-0032-y. eCollection 2015.

Investing in breastfeeding - the world breastfeeding costing initiative.

Author information

International Baby Food Network (IBFAN) Asia, BP 33 Pitampura, New Delhi, India.
IBFAN Asia, 4535a Casino St, Palanan Makati, Metro Manila Philippines.
Australian National University, Canberra, Australia ; Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, BP 33 Pitampura, New Delhi, India.
Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, BP 33 Pitampura, New Delhi, India.



Despite scientific evidence substantiating the importance of breastfeeding in child survival and development and its economic benefits, assessments show gaps in many countries' implementation of the 2003 WHO and UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (Global Strategy). Optimal breastfeeding is a particular example: initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months; and continued breastfeeding for two years or more, together with safe, adequate, appropriate, responsive complementary feeding starting in the sixth month. While the understanding of "optimal" may vary among countries, there is a need for governments to facilitate an enabling environment for women to achieve optimal breastfeeding. Lack of financial resources for key programs is a major impediment, making economic perspectives important for implementation. Globally, while achieving optimal breastfeeding could prevent more than 800,000 under five deaths annually, in 2013, US$58 billion was spent on commercial baby food including milk formula. Support for improved breastfeeding is inadequately prioritized by policy and practice internationally.


The World Breastfeeding Costing Initiative (WBCi) launched in 2013, attempts to determine the financial investment that is necessary to implement the Global Strategy, and to introduce a tool to estimate the costs for individual countries. The article presents detailed cost estimates for implementing the Global Strategy, and outlines the WBCi Financial Planning Tool. Estimates use demographic data from UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2013.


The WBCi takes a programmatic approach to scaling up interventions, including policy and planning, health and nutrition care systems, community services and mother support, media promotion, maternity protection, WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes implementation, monitoring and research, for optimal breastfeeding practices. The financial cost of a program to implement the Global Strategy in 214 countries is estimated at US $17.5 billion ($130 per live birth). The major recurring cost is maternity entitlements.


WBCi is a policy advocacy initiative to encourage integrated actions that enable breastfeeding. WBCi will help countries plan and prioritize actions and budget them accurately. International agencies and donors can also use the tool to calculate or track investments in breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding; Breastfeeding investment; Child survival; Costs and cost analysis; Health plan implementation; Health promotion/Economics/*Organization & administration; National health programs/economics/*Organization & administration; Program development/Economics

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