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Facts

Nationwide Breastfeeding Goals

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer.1 The World Health Organization also recommends exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or beyond.2

Healthy People 2020 objectives include increasing the proportion of infants who are ever breastfed to 81.9%, increasing the proportion of infants who are breastfed exclusively through 6 months to 25.5%, and increasing the proportion of infants who are breastfed at 1 year to 34.1%.3

Although most infants receive some breastmilk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended.

Healthy People 2020 Objectives Target Current Rates*
MICH**-21: Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed.
MICH-21.1 Ever 81.9% 82.5%
MICH-21.2 At 6 months 60.6% 55.3%
MICH-21.3 At 1 year 34.1% 33.7%
MICH-21.4 Exclusively through 3 months 46.2% 46.6%
MICH-21.5 Exclusively through 6 months 25.5% 24.9%
MICH-23: Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life. 14.2% 15.5%
MICH-24: Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies. 8.1% 18.3%

* MICH-21 and MICH-23 current rates represent babies born in 2014, National Immunization Survey 2015–2016; MICH-24 current rates represent babies born in Baby-Friendly Hospitals and Birth Centers designated as of June 2016.

**Maternal Infant and Child Health

Per National Immunization Survey (NIS), ever breastfed is defined as the child was ever breastfed or ever fed breast milk.

Per NIS, exclusive breastfeeding is defined as only breast milk—no solids, no water, and no other liquids.

Rates of Breastfeeding Vary Across States and Regions.

  • Infants living in the southeast are less likely to be breastfed at 6 months than infants living in other areas of the country (see below map).4
  • Infants in rural areas are less likely to ever breastfeed than infants living in urban areas.4
  • For state-by-state breastfeeding rates, please visit the Breastfeeding Rates page. Data are also available in DNPAO’s online Data, Trends, and Maps database.

Percentage of Infants Breastfed at 6 Months*2014 Data

Map: Percentage of Infants Breastfed at 6 months.  2014 data.

Breastfeeding Disparities Exist.

  • Fewer non-Hispanic black infants (68.0%) are ever breastfed compared with non-Hispanic white infants (85.7%) and Hispanic infants (84.8%).4
  • Infants eligible for and receiving The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are less likely to ever be breastfed (75.5%) than infants eligible, but not receiving WIC (83.4%), and infants ineligible for WIC (91.7%).4
  • Younger mothers (aged 20 to 29 years) are less likely to ever breastfeed (79.0%) than mothers aged 30 years or older (84.8%).4

Why Do Mothers Stop Breastfeeding Early?

60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to.5 How long a mother breastfeeds her baby (duration) is influenced by many factors including:

  • Issues with lactation and latching.5
  • Concerns about infant nutrition and weight.5
  • Mother’s concern about taking medications while breastfeeding.5
  • Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave.6
  • Cultural norms and/or lack of family support.6
  • Unsupportive hospital practices and policies.7

What Can You Do to Support Breastfeeding?

Visit The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding to learn how you can participate in a society-wide approach to support mothers and babies who are breastfeeding.

What Is Being Done to Improve Rates?

Given the importance of breastfeeding for the health of mothers and babies, CDC supports breastfeeding through hospital initiatives, worksite accommodation, and peer and professional support.

For more information about hospital maternity practices in the United States that support breastfeeding, read “Vital Signs: Improvements in Maternity Care Policies and Practices That Support Breastfeeding—United States, 2007–2013.”

References

  1. AAP Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-841. 2011-3552. Accessed November 1, 2017.
  2. World Health Organization Breastfeeding website. Accessed November 1, 2017.
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020 website. November 1, 2017.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Immunization Survey (NIS) website. Accessed November 1, 2017.
  5. Odom EC, Li R, Scanlon KS, Perrine CG, Grummer-Strawn L. Reasons for Earlier than Desired Cessation of Breastfeeding. Pediatrics. 2013;131(3):e726–732. Accessed November 1, 2017.
  6. Sriraman NK, Kellams A. Breastfeeding: What are the Barriers? Why Women Struggle to Achieve Their Goals. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016;25(7):714-22. Accessed November 1, 2017.
  7. Perrine CG, Galuska DA, Dohack JL, et al. Vital Signs: Improvements in Maternity Care Policies and Practices That Support Breastfeeding — United States, 2007–2013—United States, 2007-2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(39):1112–1117. Accessed November 1, 2017.

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