New tool to calculate the value of breastfeeding

5 May 2022

A simple new tool developed by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) will tally the volume and monetary value of breastmilk produced in Australia and around the globe. 

The Mothers' Milk Tool, created in partnership with Alive and Thrive and FHI Solutions, also allows individual mothers to add their own data and calculate the value of the milk they have produced for their child.  

The researchers behind the free, downloadable tool hope it will make the value of breastfeeding more visible to policymakers.  

"The tool is important in enabling women and children around the world and making sure they have better support," Dr Julie Smith, from ANU, said.  

"The value of breastfeeding is poorly recognised. Counting human milk is a way to value and recognise how much women add to the food system, economy and society through the care of infants and young children." 

Dr Smith said visibility is key. 

"What is measured matters the most," she said. 

"When countries do not count breastfeeding or human milk in production statistics, the extent of women's productivity and contributions to society goes unnoticed.  

"If it is not visible, it is harder to make a case for funding the policies and programs to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.  

"We want more than statements that mothers 'should' breastfeed. We are calling for better funding and policy that will make the entire process a lot easier for mums. We hope this tool will help achieve this."   

One anonymous mother who used the tool said she felt its benefits before even seeing her individual data. 

"I felt a huge sense of value in myself and all the mothers out there who might be contributing, without any true recognition to date," she said.    

The tool is being launched in the lead up to Mothers' Day to acknowledge the contribution of mothers to society through all unpaid care work, including breastfeeding.  

It is now available online.