Three-quarters of u.s. babies start off on breast milk, less than half still breastfeed after six months

Three-quarters of u.s. babies start off on breast milk, less than half still breastfeed after six months

Three million babies in America, 75% of the ones born in 2007, started off on breast milk; 43% were still breastfeeding when they were six months old, according to CDC's (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's) 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card. The three-quarters (75%) breastfeeding initiation rate meets the country's Healthy People 2010 target. Half of all US states had rates of over 75%.

The report reveals that the percentage of babies that started off on breast milk ranged from 52.5% in Mississippi to 90% in Utah.

However, the number of babies who continued breastfeeding after six months and up to one year has remained unchanged for the last three years. Just 43% (1.8 million) were still breastfeeding at the age of six months, and 22% (under 1 million) at 12 months, the authors wrote. The target for National Healthy People 2010 was 50% of new mothers still breastfeeding for six months and 25% for 12 months.

62% of all babies were breastfeeding at six months in Oregon, while in Louisiana the figure was only 20%. 40% of babies were drinking breast milk in Oregon and Vermont at the age of 12 months, compared to just 8% in Mississippi.

William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said:

Meeting the national breastfeeding initiation goal is a great accomplishment in women's and children's health, but we have more work ahead. We need to direct even more effort toward making sure mothers have the support they need in hospitals, workplaces and communities to continue breastfeeding beyond the first few days of life, so they can make it to those six and 12 month marks.

Carol MacGowan, Public Health Advisor for CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said:

High initiation rates tell us that a lot of moms plan to breastfeed, but these rates do not indicate that a birth facility is doing what it needs to support them in their effort. Evidence shows that hospital routines can help or hinder mothers and babies as they are learning to breastfeed. The care that mothers receive from hospitals should always be based on practices that are proven to help them continue breastfeeding after they go home.

Breastfeeding offers many benefits for both the baby and the mother:

  • It is easy to digest
  • It contains antibodies that protect the baby from infections - a study showed how breastfeeding transfers immunity to babies
  • It reduces the risk of becoming overweight/obese later on in life
  • It requires no measuring and careful preparations - it is the ideal way to feed on demand instantly.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to have diarrhea compared to formula fed babies.
  • Some studies have linked breastfeeding to higher intelligence later in life. (Link)
  • A mother who breastfed her children has a considerably lower risk of developing Diabetes Type 2 when she is older, compared to a woman who had children but never breastfed. (Link)
  • Women who breastfeed appear to have lower risk of inherited breast cancer. (Link)
  • Children who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from behavioral or mental health issues than those who are not breastfed, research has revealed. (Link)
  • Breastfeeding may prevent or delay allergies in high-risk children. (Link)
U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, said in August 2010:

I am committed to promoting and supporting optimal breastfeeding practices with the ultimate goal of improving the public's health. This is because breastfeeding is the best source of infant nutrition, and it provides immunologic protection and health benefits both to breastfeeding mothers and to the children they nurse.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), archives

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