United Nations: Breastfeeding has lifesaving benefits, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said in a statement here late on Thursday.
"Investing in breastfeeding has a significant impact on the health of women and children and on the economies of both rich and poor countries," said Unicef Chief of Nutrition Werner Schultink, citing a new series published by the weekly medical journal, The Lancet.
"The (Lancet) series provides crucial evidence for the case that breastfeeding is a cornerstone of children's survival, health, growth and development and contributes to a more prosperous and sustainable future," he said.
The study found that breastfeeding saves babies lives, reducing the risk of sudden infant deaths and intestinal diseases, reports Xinhua.
It also highlighted the economic benefits of breastfeeding and called on governments to support mothers with policies such as a minimum of 14-week maternity leave.
It found that countries lost over $500 billion annually because of a loss in cognitive ability which led to reduced earning capacity for people who had not been breastfed as babies.
In China, the study found that breastfeeding had decreased by five percent between 2003 and 2008 and that a ten percent increase in breastfeeding could reduce treatment costs of childhood disorders by about 30 million dollars in urban China alone.
Unicef, which contributed to the Lancet series, said the study showed that breastfeeding can help achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are a set of 17 economic, social and environmental goals all UN member states have agreed to work towards achieving by the year 2030.
"Breastfeeding is the most natural, cost effective, environmentally sound and readily available way we know to provide all children, rich or poor, with the healthiest start in life," said Schultink.
"It's a win-win for all concerned to make it a priority."