The Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Center for Economics of Breastfeeding (LRF CEB) was jointly established by the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation (FLRF) to improve global knowledge about the causes and consequences of breastfeeding. It is the world’s first research centre dedicated to the behavioural economics of breastfeeding.

According to the World Health Organization, globally just 38% of infants age zero to six months are exclusively breastfed. There is no single, simple answer to this low percentage; the factors surrounding women’s decisions and abilities to breastfeed are myriad and complex. At the mircro level, there are different personal and physical circumstances. At the macro level, there are diverse cultural and political backdrops.

Learning how these variables converge and produce different economic effects is what researchers are focusing on at the LRF CEB, located at the UZH Department of Economics.

“The primary aim of the Center is to undertake high-quality research within economics of child and youth development with a focus on breastfeeding. The main goal of the research is to inform policy-makers and public health organisations in designing policies and programmes to improve child and youth development.” – Anne Ardila Brenøe, PhD, Assistant Professor in Economics of Child and Youth Development with a Focus on Breastfeeding at the University of Zurich

In developing an evidence-based understanding of the causal determinants and consequences of breastfeeding, the LRF CEB will explore questions such as:
• How do common obstacles to breastfeeding like suboptimal maternity leave or a lack of readily available lactation support affect child health and cognitive, emotional and social development?

• How does breastfeeding help children cope with stress and other social and environmental challenges?
• Do the effects of breastfeeding differ across socioeconomic backgrounds?
• Which policies, interventions and nudges are the most likely catalysts for breastfeeding?

Their work has the potential to provide policy-relevant insights and knowledge that healthcare providers, NGOs, policymakers and communities can draw on when developing programmes to increase rates of breastfeeding. Their investigations will also complement research at the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Center for Neurodevelopment, Growth and Nutrition of the Newborn, established at UZH to investigate the neurodevelopmental mechanisms that influence child and youth development, and research at the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Shanghai Breastfeeding Research Center, a hub for globally focused epidemiological investigations into critical questions surrounding breastfeeding-related physiology and best practices.

FLRF donated CHF 10 million to endow the LRF CEB. Endowments facilitate financial independence in perpetuity, and thus enable academic organisations to accommodate panoramic research with long horizons.

Further reading

Brenøe A and Zölitz, U. Exposure to more female peers widens the gender gap in STEM participation. J Labor Econ. Forthcoming 2020.

Brenøe A and Lundberg S. Gender Gaps in the Effects of Childhood Family Environment: Do They Persist into Adulthood? Eur Econ Rev. 2018 Oct; (109):46-62. DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2017.04.004.

Brenøe A and Molitor R. Birth Order and Health of Newborns: What Can We Learn from Danish Registry Data? J Popul Econ. 2018; 31(4):363-395. DOI: 10.1007/s00148-017-0660-1.