Breast Milk Should Be Included In GDP Calculations To Properly Value Benefits
The Conversation: The National Breastfeeding Strategy is a start, but if we really valued breast milk we’d put it in the GDP
Julie Smith, honorary associate professor at Australian National University
“Australia’s new National Breastfeeding Strategy sets ambitious goals. By 2022 it wants 40% of Australian babies to exclusively breastfeed until they are six months old. … By 2025 it wants 50%. … The goals are welcome. But one of the reasons we need them is because we don’t properly value what is just about our most valuable nutritional resource. Statistically, breast milk is almost invisible. … That’s why two Nobel Prize winners, economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, agree on including human milk in conventionally defined GDP. They say its exclusion distorts priorities. … A new study by World Bank economist Dylan Walters and colleagues finds that the economic costs of not breastfeeding globally amounts to US$1 billion a day. They are not only the treatment costs for infectious illness, but also the costs of higher rates of maternal diabetes and breast cancer as well as the costs of higher childhood obesity and chronic disease, and the lifelong economic consequences of cognitive losses in children who were not sufficiently breastfed. … Australia’s new strategy reflects an important shift. It responds to evidence suggesting that breastfeeding practices are strongly influenced by commercial factors such as marketing, as well as by the employment and financial and health care environment mothers find themselves in. … The home production of other food products is included in GDP, including the cows milk produced and consumed on farms. Leaving out breast milk distorts goals and helps distort incentives. It’s time making mothers’ milk counted, and governments invested” (8/4).