CDC's New State-Specific Breastfeeding Data Will Help
States Better Target Programs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the first time, has state-by-state data on the percentage of mothers who are breastfeeding their babies and for how long.
"There are many benefits from breastfeeding and we want to encourage new and expectant moms across the country to nurse their babies if at all possible," said Donna Stroup, Ph.D., M.Sc., acting director of CDC's Coordinating Center for Health Promotion. "With this new information, state health departments can compare the breastfeeding rates in their states and communities to national objectives. The information will help agencies concentrate their efforts where they are most needed and develop targeted programs to promote breastfeeding."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life. The national average for mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least six months is low – 14.2 percent. Only Oregon had an exclusive breastfeeding rate of over 25 percent at six months.
The new breastfeeding data were gathered as part of CDC's 2003 National Immunization Survey (NIS), which surveyed mothers in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and selected geographic areas within the states. The survey revealed that six states – Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington – met all of the Healthy People 2010 objectives for breastfeeding:
Seventy-five percent of new mothers initiate breastfeeding;
Fifty percent continued to breastfeed for at least six months;
Twenty-five percent continued to breastfeed for at least 12 months.
Fourteen states achieved the 75 percent initiation rate – the top five states in this category were Oregon (88 percent), Washington (88 percent), Utah (85.5 percent), Idaho (83.8 percent, and California (83.7 percent).
Eight states met or exceeded the objective of 25 percent of mothers continuing to breastfeed for at least 12 months – the top three states were Hawaii (31 percent), Vermont (30 percent) and Alaska (28.9 percent).
The survey also confirmed previous findings that lower-income mothers and non-Hispanic black mothers had consistently lower breastfeeding rates.
"It's important for new and expectant mothers to know that breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and young babies. It's inexpensive, convenient, and it's uniquely tailored to meet all of a baby's nutritional needs for the first six months of life," said Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC's division of nutrition and physical activity. "Also, breastfed babies tend to gain less unnecessary weight that can contribute to overweight and obesity later in life."
Both babies and mothers gain other benefits from breastfeeding according to CDC experts. Breast milk is easy to digest and contains antibodies that can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections. Breastfed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea, ear infections and respiratory infections. Research indicates that women who breastfeed their babies may also have lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers. Nursing mothers also burn more calories, making it easier for them to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.
The NIS breastfeeding data is being released in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week. For more information visit CDC's Web site at www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/NIS_data/.