Press Release

New Studies Underscore Breastfeeding Benefits

Jul 7, 2016

WASHINGTON—Resources for the Future (RFF) has posted two new studies on the benefits of breastfeeding.

In “How Does Breastfeeding Affect IQ? Applying the Classical Model of Structured Expert Judgment,” authors Abigail Colson, research associate and PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and resident scholar at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington, DC; RFF Senior Fellow Roger Cooke; and RFF Visiting Fellow Randall Lutter find that effects from breastfeeding compliant with recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) may lead to gains of five IQ points for the United States. Of these gains, 60 percent appear to come from exclusive breastfeeding for three months and some breastfeeding continued through nine months of age. The study also suggests that total effects in India may be larger than in the United States (eight IQ points). The authors find that five-eighths of the total gains in India come from moderate breastfeeding.

In the second study, “What Is the Economic Value of Improved Labor Market Outcomes from Infant Nutrition? The Case of Breastfeeding in the United States,” authors RFF Fellow Marc Hafstead and RFF Visiting Fellow Randall Lutter find that the expected increase in the present value of lifetime earnings in the United States from breastfeeding is about $20,000, assuming a 3 percent discount rate, with a 95 percent confidence interval from $2,900 to $38,700. If half of all US infants born each year were better breastfed, the estimated increase in the present value of future earnings would total $40 billion annually.

Read the full papers:

All of the authors appreciate financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the University of Virginia for this work. All views expressed in the papers are the sole responsibility of the authors and not necessarily those of the funder or any other organization.

Resources for the Future does not take intitutional positions. Please attribute any findings to the authors or the research itself. For example, use "According to research from RFF …" rather than "According to RFF …".

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Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC, that conducts rigorous economic research and analysis to improve environmental and natural resource policy.