National Breastfeeding Trends
Since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been tracking breastfeeding patterns in the United States. In 2005, the CDC found that just over 72 percent of women tried breastfeeding at some point. Around 60 percent of women were breastfeeding exclusively when their infants were seven days old. When babies reach five to six months old, breastfeeding rates drop dramatically to 19 percent at five months and just under 14 percent at six months.
Women on the West Coast are the most likely to breastfeed their babies exclusively, while women in southern states were the least likely to nurse. A study reported in the December 2005 issue of Pediatrics indicated reasons why many women stopped: "[Those] who discontinue breastfeeding early are more likely to report lack of confidence in their ability to breastfeed, problems with the infant latching or sucking, and lack of individualized encouragement from their clinicians in the early post-discharge period."
Healthcare professionals like Dr. Lauren Feder, MD, a homeopathic physician and the author of Natural Baby and Childcare: Practical Medical Advice and Holistic Wisdom for Raising Healthy Children, say that a few medical conditions rule out nursing—chemotherapy or HIV status among them. But more often, "there's a difficulty on either the mother's side or the baby's side," says Dr. Feder. "Many women go into breastfeeding believing that it is some kind of innate behavior. A lot of women are surprised by how much education it takes to nurse."
Feeling Blamed for Not Nursing
Looking back, Lindsey Johnson points to everything she did "wrong" when she tried nursing her first baby two years ago. Her baby stayed in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the first few days of her life. "I knew I wanted to nurse her," says Johnson who lives just outside New York City, "but I didn't think anything about nurses giving her bottles or pacifiers, I was just so concerned about her health."
Today, Johnson doesn't know if it was nipple confusion (when babies mistake the breast for the bottle—feeding from a bottle requires less effort and a different sucking technique), a lack of adequate milk supply, or simply her daughter's stubborn personality that made her baby refuse to breastfeed after they left the hospital. Johnson resolved her baby would have breastmilk—she pumped every three hours day and night when her baby was still an infant and kept pumping until her daughter reached nine months old.