A research study has found that adults over 50 who were breastfed as babies went on to have a higher household income than those who were not.
The study from Queen's University Belfast examined whether there is an economic benefit associated with breastfeeding, by tracking a nationally representative sample of babies born in England, Wales and Scotland in 1958.
Around 9,000 participants were tracked from birth to adulthood.
The research team was led by Dr Mark McGovern, in collaboration with colleagues from University College Dublin (UCD), University College London and Cass Business School.
Dr McGovern said: "Promotional campaigns have highlighted the health benefits of breastfeeding in recent years - however, our research shows that in addition to those benefits, breastfeeding may also have a significant economic impact throughout the life course."
The team found that adults who were breastfed had a 10% higher household income at age 50, in comparison to those who were not breastfed.
File photo of a woman breastfeeding her baby | Image: Katie Collins/PA Wire/PA Images
The impact of the results from the study suggest that public health campaigns targeted at increasing rates of breastfeeding are likely to have a substantial economic return and raise human capital and productivity across the life course - as well as providing health benefits for women and children.
The results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in the number of breastfed babies in Northern Ireland each year could generate around stg£100m (€113m) in additional lifetime earnings, of which around stg£20m (€22.6m) could be expected to be collected in the form of tax revenue.
Dr McGovern explained: "Using this type of programme, and aiming for an additional 2,400 breastfed children in Northern Ireland, the cost would be around stg£500,000 (€565,191) per year.
"Comparing costs and benefits suggests that such a programme would be highly cost-beneficial over the long run."
Dr Slawa Rokicki, from University College Dublin, added: "Having evidence on the economic benefits of breastfeeding supports the argument for greater resources being invested in public health campaigns and breastfeeding support services.
"Breastfeeding may not be not right for everyone, but for those women who do want to breastfeed, increased support and information provided by these campaigns could help more women in doing so."