The objectives of this study were to provide an economic assessment of the incremental costs associated with obtaining the World Health Organization and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund designation as a Infant-Friendly hospital. We hypothesized that baby-friendly hospitals will have higher costs than similar non–baby-friendly hospitals.
Data from the 2007 American Hospital Association and the 2007 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Cost Reports were used to compare labor and delivery costs in baby-friendly and non–baby-friendly hospitals. Operational costs per delivery were calculated using a matched-pairs analysis of a sample of baby-friendly and non–baby-friendly hospitals in the United States. Costs associated with labor-and-delivery diagnosis–related codes were analyzed for each baby-friendly hospital and compared with the mean and median costs incurred by non–baby-friendly hospitals.
Nursery plus labor-and-delivery costs for the baby-friendly sites were $2205 per delivery, compared with $2170 for the non–baby-friendly matched pair. Baby-friendly facilities have slightly higher costs than non–baby-friendly facilities, ranging from 1.6% to 5%, but these costs were not statistically significant (P > .05).
These results suggest that becoming baby-friendly is relatively cost-neutral for a typical acute care hospital. Although the overall expense of providing baby-friendly hospital nursery services is greater than nursery service costs of non–baby-friendly hospitals, the cost difference was not statistically significant. Additional research is needed to compare the economic impact of maternal and infant health benefits from breastfeeding versus the incremental expenses of becoming a baby-friendly hospital.