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New Zealand could save an estimated $245 million a year if 90 percent of babies were exclusively breast fed, a recent study indicates.
According to a United States cost analysis, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life was estimated to save the lives of nearly 900 babies, as well as $US13 billion ($NZ18 billion) per year.
For New Zealand's population, the inferred savings would be about $245 million a year, Women's Health Action Trust spokeswoman Cathie Walsh said.
"Breast-fed babies get sick less often and they're much less likely to get the common childhood illnesses of gastro and respiratory infections and those sorts of things. So, therefore there are less health care costs, less hospitalisations, doctor's prescriptions, hospital treatment, and, in some cases, deaths."
The figure of $245 million also included the potential loss of wages of children who died, Ms Walsh said.
"It is important that parents and health professionals are aware of the profound difference that breastfeeding makes," she said.
"There is significant scientific evidence from middle class populations in developed countries which have established the extensive protective and positive health effects of breastfeeding. Not breastfeeding compromises both the child's and the mother's health."