Monday, September 13, 2010

Three Out of Four New Moms Initiate Breastfeeding

However only 43 percent of babies still being breastfed at 6 months of age

Seventy-five percent of babies born in the United States in 2007 - over 3 million - started life breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card. The 75 percent breastfeeding initiation rate meets the nation's Healthy People 2010 goal, and half of the states have breastfeeding initiation rates above 75 percent.

State by state breastfeeding initiation rates ranged from nearly 90 percent in Utah to 52.5 percent in Mississippi.

But while initiation rates have risen steadily, the number of babies who continue breastfeeding until six and 12 months remains stagnant for the third consecutive year. Only 43 percent (1.8 million) are still breastfeeding at six months and only 22 percent (fewer than 1 million) are breastfeeding at 12 months. National Healthy People 2010 objectives call for 50 percent of new mothers to continue breastfeeding for six months and 25 percent to continue for one year.

Breastfeeding at 6 months of age ranged from over 62 percent in Oregon to about 20 percent in Louisiana. Breastfeeding at 12 months ranged from nearly 40 percent in Oregon and Vermont to 8 percent in Mississippi.

"Meeting the national breastfeeding initiation goal is a great accomplishment in women's and children's health, but we have more work ahead," said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. "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."

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

Less than 4 percent of U.S. births occur at facilities designated as Baby-Friendly - a designation program implemented by Baby-Friendly USA on behalf of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The program outlines 10 steps that support the initiation of breastfeeding and identifies hospitals that meet internationally recognized health care quality standards for maternity and breastfeeding support. In 21 states and the District of Columbia there are none of these hospitals.

The Breastfeeding Report Card also provides data from a CDC survey that measures every U.S. hospital's maternity practices in infant nutrition and care. The survey finds that the average score is 65 out of a possible 100 points awarded for supportive maternity care. Scores range from 81 in New Hampshire to 50 in Mississippi.

Breastfeeding offers many benefits. Breast milk is easy to digest and contains antibodies that can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections. And breast-fed babies are less likely to become overweight or obese children or adolescents compared to babies who are exclusively bottle-fed.

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