Nearly Half of All New Moms Breastfeed for Six Months, CDC Report Says
Breastfeeding rates among moms in the US have increased since 2000— news that experts say is good for babies, mothers and society at large.
Breastfeeding? You’re not alone! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a report showing nearly half of US babies (49 percent) are breastfed at six months.
The data, dated to 2010, marks an increase from 2000, when just over one-third—35 percent—of six-month old infants were breastfed.
Government officials, doctors, breastfeeding advocates and moms all hailed the news.
“This is great news for the health of our nation,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement released to the press. Frieden cited the various health benefits associated with breastfeeding, including lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity for breastfed babies and lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers for mothers who have nursed.
Most recently, a major study found that children who were breastfed as babies performed higher on IQ tests than their formula-fed peers.
Frieden also said that breastfeeding lowers health care costs, citing research findings that $2.2 billion in medical costs could be saved if breastfeeding recommendations were met. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies consume only breast milk until they are six months old and that mothers continue breastfeeding for at least a year.
The CDC also reported that more hospitals have become supportive of breastfeeding, with 37 percent allowing babies to “room in” with their mothers for 23 hours a day and more than half—54 percent—allowing skin-to-skin contact between babies and mothers right after birth.
“After a generation of hospital practices, growth charts, and feeding expectations geared to the bottle-fed baby, although we still have a lot of work to do, we have made great strides in converting our institutions and expectations to breastfeeding norms,” lactation consultant and breastfeeding book author Nancy Morbacher told BabyZone. “I offer my congratulations to all of the health professionals who have worked so hard to make breastfeeding easier for mothers after birth.”
Hospitals aren’t the only institutions that play an important role in raising breastfeeding rates. Mother of two and Babble blogger Rebekah Chodoff Kuschmider says that action by the government and workplaces in support of nursing women is also critical.
“I think we could see those numbers go higher if we had even better breastfeeding supports in place for working moms,” said Kuschmider, who also blogs at Stay At Home Pundit. “There have been a slew of new regulations to help make nursing and working more compatible – things like guaranteed breaks to pump and insurance coverage of breast pumps. Those are small steps toward comprehensive support for working parents.”
Kuschmider and others also say that mothers should see support whether they ultimately breast or bottle feed.
Densmore-Koon tried to breastfeed each of her five children but ultimately was unable. Her children, she wrote in a blog post last year, are healthy.
“Really the focus should be on feeding your baby in general and focusing on their well being—it doesn’t matter how you do it. Breast or bottle,” she told BabyZone.
The CDC’s other findings include:
* The percent of babies breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 16 percent in 2000 to 27 percent in 2010.
* During that same time period, babies who started breastfeeding increased from 71 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010.
The increases in nursing rates is also good news for those breastfeeding-related businesses, like Dr. Cheri Wiggins, the co-founder of Mommy Doctors Bakery, a company that makes cookies packed with ingredients designed to boost breast milk supply.
But Wiggins, who is also a physician specializing in rehabilitation, says she’s more concerned with the greater good.
“As entrepreneurs, we’re excited to have more potential customers,” she said, “but more importantly, as moms and physicians, we’re so excited to see more moms breastfeed for longer!”
Ebeth Johnson, who offers nutritional and lifestyle guidance to nursing moms as The Breastfeeding Chef, says she’s proud to be one of the women represented in the CDC’s statistics. Her breastfed daughter just turned 2.
“Breast milk,” she said, “is by far the best first food for our babies.”
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