U.S. breastfeeding rates continue to rise according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percent of babies breastfeeding at six months increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010. In the same time period, the percent of babies breastfeeding at one year also increased from 16 percent to 27 percent. Babies who started breastfeeding increased from 71 percent to 77 percent.
“This is great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, M.D. M.P.H.
New studies show children who were breastfed score higher on intelligence tests than those who weren’t breastfed. Breastfeeding mothers also return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster because it takes a lot of energy to make milk.
Breastfeeding is also sustainable. Breast milk creates no waste or air pollution, can’t be contaminated, and is always just the right temperature and ready for baby. Families of breastfed babies miss less work because they’re sick less often.
“Also, breastfeeding lowers health care costs. Researchers have calculated that $2.2 billion in yearly medical costs could be saved if breastfeeding recommendations were met. It is critical that we continue working to improve hospital, community and workplace support for breastfeeding mothers and babies and realize these cost savings,” Frieden said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed for six months, and then introduce solids while continuing to breastfeed for a year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.
The CDC study also notes the crucial role hospitals play in supporting mothers and breastfeeding. Keeping mothers and babies together after birth by rooming in for at least 23 hours per day increased from 30 percent in 2007 to 37 percent in 2011.
Skin-to-skin contact where babies were placed on their mothers’ chest immediately after birth climbed from 41 percent to more than 54 percent in the same time period.
“The period right after a baby is born is a critical time for establishing breastfeeding,” said Janet L. Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “Rooming in and skin-to-skin contact help ensure that mothers and babies stay together and are able to start and continue breastfeeding. These are meaningful steps hospitals can take to support mothers and families and help improve breastfeeding rates.”