More women are breast-feeding their babies today than they were just a decade ago, according to a new report from the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the year 2000, 71% of mothers reported breast-feeding their newborn babies, and by 2010, this figure increased to 77%.
The increase in breast-feeding rates for babies up to 6 months of age was even more significant. About 34% of mothers said they breast-fed their babies until they were 6 months old in 2000, while 50% said the same in 2010. Of this 50%, around 16% reported breast-feeding exclusively, while other women supplemented with formula.
Finally, 27% of women said they continued to breast-feed their baby after a full year in 2010, while just 16% did in 2000.
The Benefits of Breast-Feeding
CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said that there are many benefits to breast-feeding, both for moms and for babies. As they get older, breastfed babies are less likely to become obese, develop diabetes and suffer gastrointestinal infections. Moms who breastfeed are also less likely to develop certain types of cancer, including ovarian and breast cancer. Dr. Frieden would like to see breast-feeding rates rise even further through the help of additional support for women in hospitals and in the workplace.
According to Janet L. Collins, head of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the CDC, the period of time immediately following birth is the most important time for breast-feeding. Ideally, newborns should stay in the same room as their mothers and get plenty of skin-on-skin contact in order to establish a strong bond. Dr. Collins says that hospitals should do all they can to support this, which should result in even further improvements in breast-feeding rates.
About 30% of hospitals reported that mothers and their newborns shared the same room for no less than 23 hours a day in 2007. This percentage increased to 37% in 2011, which likely accounted for some of the gains in breast-feeding rates.
Ideal Breast-Feeding Practices
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, moms should breast-feed their babies for at least six months after giving birth. However, the AAP also recommends giving babies nutritional supplements under the guidance of a family physician, since breast milk lacks certain vitamins and minerals critical for early development. Following these six months, women should continue breast-feeding their babies until they turn one year of age while supplementing with other foods such as pureed vegetables, according to the AAP.
The Bottom Line
About half of mothers breast-feed their babies at least until they reach 6 months of age, meeting the recommendation offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast-feeding rates have increased considerably over the past decade alone.
A PDF containing the full report on breast-feeding can be found at the website of the CDC.