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 2020external icon 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-21.2||At 6 months||60.6%||57.3%|
|MICH-21.3||At 1 year||34.1%||36.2%|
|MICH-21.4||Exclusively through 3 months||46.2%||47.5%|
|MICH-21.5||Exclusively through 6 months||25.5%||25.4%|
|MICH-22: Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation support programs.||38.0%||51.0%|
|MICH-23: Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life.||14.2%||16.9%|
|MICH-24: Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies.||8.1%||26.1%|
* MICH-21 and MICH-23 current rates represent babies born in 2016, National Immunization Survey 2017-2018; MICH-22 current rates represent employers providing an on-site lactation/mother’s room, Society for Human Resource Management, 2019 survey; MICH-24 current rates represent babies born in Baby-Friendly Hospitals and Birth Centers designated as of June 2018, Baby-Friendly USA.
**Maternal Infant and Child Health
- 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. Historic data are also available in DNPAO’s online Data, Trends, and Maps database.
Percentage of Infants Breastfed at 6 Months
- Fewer non-Hispanic black infants (74.0%) are ever breastfed compared with non-Hispanic white infants (86.6%) and Hispanic infants (82.9%).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 (89.0%), and infants ineligible for WIC (92.7%).4
- Younger mothers (aged 20 to 29 years) are less likely to ever breastfeed (80.0%) than mothers aged 30 years or older (86.3%).4
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
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.
Given the importance of breastfeeding for the health of mothers and babies, CDC supports breastfeeding through hospital initiatives, worksite accommodation, continuity of care and community support initiatives.
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.”
- AAP Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milkexternal icon. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-841. 2011-3552. Accessed November 1, 2017.
- World Health Organization Breastfeeding websiteexternal icon. Accessed November 1, 2017.
- US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020 websiteexternal icon. November 1, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Immunization Survey (NIS) website. Accessed August 1, 2019.
- Odom EC, Li R, Scanlon KS, Perrine CG, Grummer-Strawn L. Reasons for Earlier than Desired Cessation of Breastfeedingexternal icon. Pediatrics. 2013;131(3):e726–732. Accessed November 1, 2017.
- Sriraman NK, Kellams A. Breastfeeding: What are the Barriers? Why Women Struggle to Achieve Their Goalsexternal icon. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016;25(7):714-22. Accessed November 1, 2017.
- 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.