September 14, 2010

Breastfeeding Rates High, But Mothers Stop Too Soon

Three million, or 75 percent, of all infants born in the United States in 2007 were breastfed, but mothers abandoned the practice too quickly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday.

The health agency said that less than 50 percent of U.S. mothers had breastfed their newborns for even half as long as advised, while just 22 percent are still breastfeeding one year after the birth of their baby.

The CDC report revealed that the number of U.S. babies who were breastfed at age six months and 12 months fell off dramatically, with just 43 percent of babies, or 1.8 million, still breastfeeding at six months.  Less than one-in-four were doing so at 12 months, the CDC's Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance survey showed.

Nevertheless, the 2007 breastfeeding rate is nearly triple that in 1980, when just 28 percent of newborns were breastfed.  During that year less than one-in-ten infants were still nursing at the age of six months of age, and just 4.5 percent were breastfeeding at one year of age.

By comparison, in 2000 less than half of newborns were breastfed, with fewer than one in five still nursing at six months and just one in nine at 12 months.

Breast milk contains protective antibodies, and is easier to digest than bottled milk.  And breast-fed babies are less likely to become overweight or obese than their bottle-fed counterparts, the CDC said.

Launched three decades ago, the CDC's Healthy People 2010 campaign has set a goal of getting three-quarters of mothers to nurse their babies from birth, with half continuing to breastfeed until the infant is six months old, and 25 percent until the baby reaches their first birthday.

"The U.S. has now met the Healthy People 2010 national objective for breastfeeding initiation. However, rates of breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months as well as rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months remain stagnant and low," the agency said.

The CDC's initiative seeks to increase the quality and years of healthy life, and to reduce U.S. health disparities by meeting hundreds of goals in 28 areas, including maternal and child health.

"High breastfeeding initiation rates show that most mothers in the U.S. want to breastfeed and are trying to do so," the health agency said.

"However, even from the very start, mothers may not be getting the breastfeeding support they need.  Low breastfeeding rates at 3, 6, and 12 months illustrate that mothers continue to face multiple barriers to breastfeeding."

The CDC's full report, entitled "Breastfeeding Report Card"”United States, 2010", can be viewed at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.