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 1 August 2017

New analysis shows an investment of US$4.70 per newborn could generate US$300 billion in economic gains by 2025

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 1 August 2017 – No country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breastfeeding, according to a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, a new initiative to increase global breastfeeding rates.

The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively (given nothing but breast milk) and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.

Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.

“Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.”

The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis demonstrating that an annual investment of only US$4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.

Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case for Breastfeeding, suggests that meeting this target could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate US$300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most effective – and cost effective – investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies – and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity.”

The investment case shows that in five of the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—the lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year and US$119 billion in economic losses.



Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Each year, governments in lower- and middle- income countries spend approximately US$250 million on breastfeeding programs; and donors provide only an additional US$85 million.

The Global Breastfeeding Collective is calling on countries to:

  • Increase funding to raise breastfeeding rates from birth through two years.
  • Fully implement the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant
  • World Health Assembly resolutions through strong legal measures that are enforced and independently monitored by organizations free from conflicts of interest.
  • Enact paid family leave and workplace breastfeeding policies, building on the International
  • Labour Organization’s maternity protection guidelines as a minimum requirement, including provisions for the informal sector.
  • Implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in maternity facilities, including providing breastmilk for sick and vulnerable newborns.
  • Improve access to skilled breastfeeding counselling as part of comprehensive breastfeeding policies and programmes in health facilities.
  • Strengthen links between health facilities and communities, and encourage community networks that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
  • Strengthen monitoring systems that track the progress of policies, programmes, and funding towards achieving both national and global breastfeeding targets.

Breastfeeding is critical for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals. It improves nutrition (SDG2), prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases (SDG3), and supports cognitive development and education (SDG4). Breastfeeding is also an enabler to ending poverty, promoting economic growth and reducing inequalities.

Notes to editors

Multimedia content is available here.

Visit to download The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard and The Investment Case for Breastfeeding.

About the Global Breastfeeding Scorecard

The Scorecard compiles data from countries all over the world on the status of seven priorities set by the Global Breastfeeding Collective to increase the rate of breastfeeding.

The 23 countries that have achieved exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent are: Bolivia, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, São Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Zambia.

About the Global Breastfeeding Collective

Co-led by UNICEF and WHO, the Global Breastfeeding Collective’s mission is to rally political, legal, financial, and public support for breastfeeding, which will benefit mothers, children, and society.

For more information contact:

Yemi Lufadeju, UNICEF New York, +1 917 213 4034,

Kimberly Chriscaden, WHO Geneva, tel: +41 22 791 2885, mob: +41 79 603 1891,

Olivia Lawe Davies, WHO Geneva, tel: +41 22 791 1209, mob: +41 79 475 5545,


Media coverage:

USA Today: Breastfeeding: Not a single country in the world meets WHO, UNICEF standards

Jakarta Globe: New UNICEF, WHO Initiative Calls on Governments to Increase Investment, Support for Breastfeeding

DPA (German Press Agency): UN: Breastfeeding can boost economies and save children’s lives

Fast Company: Can Encouraging Breastfeeding Around the World Boost the Global Economy? (refers to the “Global Breastfeeding Initiative/GBI” Rather than “Global Breastfeeding Collective” but will be corrected)

New York Daily News: All countries are failing when it comes to breastfeeding: World Health Organization

Huffington Post (Mama Bean Parenting): Babies and Mothers Failed by lack of Investment in Breastfeeding

Premium Times (Nigeria): Breastfeeding can boost economies, save children’s lives – UN

Outlook (India): Lack of investment in breastfeeding results in around 3 lakh child deaths per year: Report

Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report): Breastfeeding Mothers Need More Support In All Nations, WHO/UNICEF Report Says; WHO, UNICEF Launch Global Breastfeeding Collective

La Nacion (Mexico): Para los expertos debe ser una política pública

El Debate (Mexico): Lactancia materna para salvar más vidas

Business Standard (India): Lack of investment in breastfeeding results in around 3 lakh child deaths per year: Report

Romper: Investing In Breastfeeding Could Make Us Richer & Healthier, Report Finds, So Why Aren’t We?

Daily Trust (Nigeria):  No country in the world meets breastfeeding recommendation – UNICEF

National Accord (Nigeria): Nigeria losing US$21bn yearly to inadequate breastfeeding- UNICEF

Healio: WHO, UNICEF stress seven ways to invest in breast-feeding initiatives

Vanguard (Nigeria): Breastfeeding: Nigeria, four others lose $119bn annually – WHO


CTV News (Canada): Countries failing to meet breastfeeding targets, new global report finds

Huffington Post Australia: Breastfeeding Mothers Aren’t Getting The Support They Need

Daily Post (Nigeria): Breastfeeding can boost economies, save children’s lives – UN

The Less-Refined Mind: UNICEF, WHO release New Breastfeeding Research

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