U.S. Meets Initial Breast-feeding Goal, Falls Short on Others

TUESDAY Sept. 14, 2010 -- Seventy-five percent of U.S. newborns delivered in 2007 started life breast-feeding -- a figure that meets federal goals -- but that rate plummeted to 43 percent at six months and 22 percent at one year, a federal government study released Monday shows.

Half of the states had breast-feeding initiation rates above 75 percent, which is the National Healthy People's 2010 goal. That program also calls for 50 percent of infants to continue breast-feeding for six months and 25 percent for one year, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2010 Breast-feeding Report Card.

"Meeting the national breast-feeding initiation goal is a great accomplishment in women's and children's health, but we have more work ahead," Dr. William Dietz, director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said in an agency news release.

"We need to direct even more effort toward making sure mothers have the support they need in hospitals, workplaces and communities to continue breast-feeding beyond the first few days of life so they can make it to those six- and 12-month marks," he said.

The report shows that breast-feeding initiation rates ranged from 52.5 percent in Mississippi to nearly 90 percent in Utah. Breast-feeding rates at six months ranged from about 20 percent in Louisiana to more than 62 percent in Oregon, while rates at one year ranged from 8 percent in Mississippi to nearly 40 percent in Oregon.

U.S. hospitals had an average score of 65 out of 100 possible points on a CDC survey that measures infant nutrition and care, according to the report card. The scores ranged from 50 in Mississippi to 81 in New Hampshire.

Less than 4 percent of U.S. births occur at facilities designated as Baby-Friendly, a program sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The program outlines 10 steps that support the initiation of breast-feeding and identifies hospitals that meet internationally recognized standards for maternity and breast-feeding support.

"High initiation rates tell us that a lot of moms plan to breast-feed, but these rates do not indicate that a birth facility is doing what it need to support them in their effort," Carol MacGowan, public health advisor for the CDC division, said in the news release.

"Evidence shows that hospital routines can help or hinder mothers and babies as they are learning to breast-feed. The care that mothers receive from hospitals should always be based on practices that are proven to help them continue breast-feeding after they go home," she added.

Research has shown that breast-feeding offers many health benefits to babies, including protection from bacterial and viral infections and reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life.

Breast-feeding has also been linked to a lower risk, in children, of getting type 1 or type 2 diabetes, asthma and childhood leukemia. In mothers, it is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast or ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression, according to the National Women's Health Information Center.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about breastfeeding.

Posted: September 2010


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