Valuing breastfeeding through the Mothers' Milk Tool


Mothers' Millk Tool Logo

Breastfeeding and mothers’ milk is presently not counted in food systems or the economy but should be. The Mothers’ Milk Tool will help.

Download the Mothers’ Milk Tool

Money is the language of policymakers. Counting human milk production in food and economic statistics will assist in better policy decision-making and investments in women’s unpaid care work. The Mothers’ Milk Tool quantifies the volume of breastmilk and value of breastfeeding at national and global levels, as well as how much is lost if country environments and policies, or healthcare, work and community settings do not enable women’s and children’s rights to breastfeeding.
It will show how much is lost when breastfeeding declines. As the classic Joni Mitchell song lyric goes “… you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone.
By helping to mobilize action and motivate upscaling of investments, the tool will help ensure greater investments and resources are allocated towards enabling women and children to realise their human rights, including to breastfeeding.
The Australian National University and Alive & Thrive Southeast Asia have partnered to develop this easy to use, downloadable tool that makes more visible the economic value contributed to society by women’s unpaid care work through breastfeeding of infants and young children.
The Mothers’ Milk Tool will be of value to a variety of users, including policymakers, advocates, researchers, national accountants and statisticians, and individual mother/baby dyads. It can support tracking of progress on breastfeeding targets, by assisting food and health policymakers and public officials to include breastfeeding in food balance sheets and economic statistics. The Tool also allows individual mothers to calculate how much milk they have produced for their child and its value, depending on how many months the child is breastfed for during the first 36 months of life.
An online version of the tool with an interactive interface is under development and is expected to be released in August 2022.
The current tool is fully functioning in Windows Operating system. We are aware of and currently addressing compatibility issues with Mac IOS.


Acknowledgements and team members for the Mothers’ Milk Tool

This Tool was commissioned by the Innovation Incubator at FHI Solution. FHI Solutions is a subsidiary of FHI 360 and an international nonprofit supported by three Centres of Excellence including Alive & Thrive, Intake and 1,000 Days. We would also like to acknowledge research funding support from the Australian Research Council (FT140101260).

Research and Development Team Members

Australian National University

  1. Julie Smith, Honorary Associate Professor, College of Health and Medicine.
  2. Alessandro Iellamo, Independent Consultant, United Kingdom.
  3. Rene R. Raya, Programmer, Action for Economic Reforms (AER). 
  4. Rose Ann L. Batuigas, Support Programmer, Social Watch Philippines (SWP).

Alive & Thrive Southeast Asia

  1. Nguyen Thanh Tuan, Regional Technical Advisor, Measurement, Learning and Evaluation, Alive & Thrive Southeast Asia.
  2. Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, Regional Program Officer, Knowledge Management, Alive & Thrive Southeast Asia.
  3. Roger Mathisen, Regional Director, Alive & Thrive Southeast Asia.

The feminist economics of breastfeeding

The Mothers’ Milk Tool is based on research under an Australian Research Council Fellowship (FT140101260) at the Australian National University. An important aim of this research has been to develop a reliable measure of the economic value of human milk suitable for incorporation in economic statistics such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Related research by Dr Julie Smith at the Australian National University since 2004 funded by the ARC (DP0451117) has brought economic and feminist perspectives to the problem of addressing barriers to breastfeeding. This research has innovatively applied economic and market techniques to thinking about women’s infant feeding decisions and policy.
This research has provided new and relevant information on parental time use, ‘willingness to pay’, and economic values of breastfeeding including through the Time Use Survey of New Mothers (TUSNM). It highlighted the economic value of the time women invest in breastfeeding and care of infants and young children. It showed the need for governments and employers to also invest in breastfeeding such as through paid maternity leave and breastfeeding friendly workplace environments.