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More Women Initiate Breastfeeding, Continue It Longer, CDC Reports

More Women Initiate Breastfeeding, Continue It Longer, CDC Reports

August 2, 2013 — The number of women who breastfeed their infants at birth and continue to do so in the coming months increased significantly between 2000 and 2010, according to CDC's 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports. The report noted that hospital practices that encourage breastfeeding were a factor in the improved rates.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns be fed only breast milk for the first six months of life, with breastfeeding continuing after infants start eating solid foods, until age one. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said breastfeeding reduces the risk of short-term and chronic illnesses in children -- such as obesity and diabetes -- while lowering women's risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In addition, he cited a new study that shows children who were breastfed had higher IQs than children who were not.

The CDC report found that 77% of women in 2010 breastfed their newborns, with 49% still breastfeeding six months later and 27% continuing to do so at one year. Comparatively, only 35% of women breastfed their infants at six months and only 16% did so for a full year in 2010.

State Progress

The study also ranked how receptive states were to breastfeeding. Idaho was ranked first with 91.8% of women nursing their newborns, followed by California (91.6%), Oregon (90.2%), Colorado (89.1%) and New Hampshire (88%). Further, 74.5% of women who breastfed in Idaho were continuing to do so at six months, followed by California (71.3%), Oregon (71%), Hawaii (64.9%) and Utah (64.2%).

At one year, Utah ranked first with 52.3% of mothers still breastfeeding, followed by Idaho (45.5%), California (45.3%), Hawaii (42.2%) and Vermont (40.7%).

The lowest ranked state was Mississippi, where 50.5% of women breastfed their newborns, 19.7% breastfed at six months and 9.1% did so for a full year. Other low-ranking states included Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/31).

In addition, researchers calculated that if women were able to meet all breastfeeding recommendations, the U.S. could save more than $2 billion in annual health care costs (Abutaleb, Reuters, 7/31).

Role of Hospitals

Using data from the Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care Survey, the CDC report also determined that more hospitals were facilitating breastfeeding by encouraging skin-to-skin contact and "room in" practices for newborns to stay with their mothers ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/31).

Specifically, 54% of hospitals in 2011 allowed newborns to have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers, compared with about 41% in 2007. In a similar finding, 37% of hospitals in 2011 allowed infants to room with their mothers after birth for at least 23 hours a day, up from 30% in 2007 (Reuters, 7/31). The report recommended more hospitals adopt the two practices to increase breastfeeding rates (Shute, "Shots," NPR, 7/31).