According to the 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in July, a high rate of mothers are attempting to breastfeed their infants, and are breastfeeding their infants for longer. In 2010, around 75% of new mothers began breastfeeding. Also in 2010, about 50% of babies were still being breastfed at 6 months old, and 27% at 1 year old. This is a significant increase from 2000, when these statistics were 35% and 16%, respectively. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends mothers breastfeed their infants for 1 year, and the World Health Organization suggests that children be breastfed for 2 years.
These improvements are noteworthy, given the benefits children receive from being breastfed. Research shows that infants who are breastfed are less likely to experience ear infections and diarrhea than those that are not. Additionally, adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to suffer from diabetes and obesity. However, these advantages are not always well publicized and some hospitals to do not promote breastfeeding.
In fact, about 25% of hospitals and birth centers provide formula to mothers whose babies are successfully breastfeeding, and around 75% of hospitals include formula in packs given to all new mothers. In addition to promoting breastfeeding, the CDC reports two specific actions hospitals can take to increase the number of women who breastfeed. The first is allowing new infants to “room in” with their mothers. In 2011, 37% of hospitals reported having babies stay in the hospital room with their mothers for 23 hours a day, which is up from 30% in 2000, but still leaves room for improvement. Hospitals should also ensure “skin to skin” contact between mothers and babies after birth, which help babies keep warm and successfully breastfeed. According to the CDC, about 54% of hospitals have infants skin-to-skin with mothers.
By taking the steps outlined above and increasing publicity about the benefits of breastfeeding, hospitals and public health officials can help increase the amount of women who breastfeed and the length that babies are breastfed for.
For more information and resources about breastfeeding from the U.S. Office on Women's Health, click here.