August 5, 2004; 9:00 a.m. ET
|Contact: CDC National Center
for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Press Office: 770-488-5131
CDC's New State-Specific Breastfeeding Data Will Help
States Better Target Programs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the first time,
has state-by-state data on the percentage of mothers who are breastfeeding
their babies and for how long.
"There are many benefits from breastfeeding and we want to encourage new
and expectant moms across the country to nurse their babies if at all
possible," said Donna Stroup, Ph.D., M.Sc., acting director of CDC's
Coordinating Center for Health Promotion. "With this new information, state
health departments can compare the breastfeeding rates in their states and
communities to national objectives. The information will help agencies
concentrate their efforts where they are most needed and develop targeted
programs to promote breastfeeding."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed nothing
but breast milk for the first six months of life. The national average for
mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least six months is
low – 14.2 percent. Only Oregon had an exclusive breastfeeding rate of over
25 percent at six months.
The new breastfeeding data were gathered as part of CDC's 2003 National
Immunization Survey (NIS), which surveyed mothers in 50 states, the
District of Columbia, and selected geographic areas within the states. The
survey revealed that six states – Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and
Washington – met all of the Healthy People 2010 objectives for
- Seventy-five percent of new mothers initiate breastfeeding;
- Fifty percent continued to breastfeed for at least six months;
- Twenty-five percent continued to breastfeed for at least 12 months.
Fourteen states achieved the 75 percent initiation rate – the top five
states in this category were Oregon (88 percent), Washington (88 percent),
Utah (85.5 percent), Idaho (83.8 percent, and California (83.7 percent).
Eight states met or exceeded the objective of 25 percent of mothers
continuing to breastfeed for at least 12 months – the top three states were
Hawaii (31 percent), Vermont (30 percent) and Alaska (28.9 percent).
The survey also confirmed previous findings that lower-income mothers and
non-Hispanic black mothers had consistently lower breastfeeding rates.
"It's important for new and expectant mothers to know that breast milk is
the ideal food for newborns and young babies. It's inexpensive, convenient,
and it's uniquely tailored to meet all of a baby's nutritional needs for
the first six months of life," said Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC's
division of nutrition and physical activity. "Also, breastfed babies tend
to gain less unnecessary weight that can contribute to overweight and
obesity later in life."
Both babies and mothers gain other benefits from breastfeeding according
to CDC experts. Breast milk is easy to digest and contains antibodies that
can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections. Breastfed babies
have fewer bouts of diarrhea, ear infections and respiratory infections.
Research indicates that women who breastfeed their babies may also have
lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers. Nursing mothers also
burn more calories, making it easier for them to return to their
The NIS breastfeeding data is being released in conjunction with World
Breastfeeding Week. For more information visit CDC's Web site at
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