A study commissioned by UNICEF UK looked at the potential benefits of a moderate increase in breastfeeding rates.
Researchers estimated the potential benefits if 45% of women exclusively breastfed for four months and if 75% of babies in neonatal units were breastfed at discharge.
They calculated the impact of raising breastfeeding rates on GP consultation rates relating to gastrointestinal and lower respiratory tract infections and acute otitis media.
Just across these three disease areas, 54,000 fewer GP consultations would be needed if breastfeeding rates increased moderately, the researchers estimated.
UNICEF UK deputy executive director Anita Tiessen said: ‘As a society we are failing mothers and babies.
'We want to see breastfeeding recognised as a major public health issue from government level through to local children’s centres, and appropriate investment and legislation put in place to give mothers a better experience of breastfeeding.
‘The good news for commissioners is that our research shows that money invested to help women breastfeed for longer would provide a rapid financial return.’