“Moderate increases” in breastfeeding could save the NHS £40m, a report suggests.
It is also claimed increases in breastfeeding would lead to tens of thousands of fewer hospital admissions and GP consultations.
"We know that 90% of women who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks discontinued before they had wanted to,” said Anita Tiessen, deputy executive director of UNICEF UK.
"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 research, led by Professor Mary Renfrew of Dundee University, also showed the move could save lives by bringing down the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
"This research shines a spotlight on the profound protective effects which breastfeeding has on both mother and child," said Professor Renfrew.
"It is clear that putting resources into supporting women to breastfeed successfully would be hugely cost effective to the NHS, as well as preventing the distress and pain felt by a mother who has a bad experience of breastfeeding."
Commenting on the report Preventing disease and saving resources, Candy Perry, healthcare business development director for NCT, said she “welcomed” the research and hoped it would lead to breastfeeding becoming a “greater priority on the UK’s health agenda”.