Statcast Number 5 Transcript

DATE: April 30, 2008

PUBLICATION: “Breastfeeding in the United States: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 1999-2006”

SPOKESPERSON: Margaret McDowell, a health statistician with the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, discusses the latest data on breastfeeding in the U.S.:

MCDOWELL: The latest data, approximately 77% of us infants were breastfed and … infants born in 1993 to1994 the rates were about 60%…

HOST: Statcast… April 30, 2008…

Margaret McDowell is a health statistician and registered dietician for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES. McDowell is the lead author on a new study on breastfeeding in the U.S., featuring the most recent statistics available on the subject.

HOST: Margaret, why is breastfeeding so important to infant health?

MCDOWELL: Well, from a public health standpoint breast milk is the ideal food, really, for human infants… It’s formulated to support good growth and development… For human infants it has the right mix of protein, vitamins, minerals and it contains many other protective substances such as antibodies that protect infants in the first few months of life…

HOST: And what does your new study show about breastfeeding in the U.S.?

MCDOWELL: The latest data from NHANES suggests and support that infants in the United States are more likely be breastfed… we’ve seen a trend that shows increasing rates of infants being breastfed.

HOST: So how common is breastfeeding?

MCDOWELL: The latest data, approximately 77% of us infants were breastfed and … infants born in 1993 to 1994 the rates of breastfeeding were about 60%…

HOST: Which mothers are more likely to breast-feed their babies?

MCDOWELL: Breastfeeding rates varied by race/ethnicity groups… by the age of the mother… the time she gave birth.. we’ve also observed some differences by income status… Overall, Mexican American mothers were more likely to breastfeed their infants, but there have also been increases in other population groups, as the latest data are showing… Rates of breast feeding have been increasing significantly among non-Hispanic black mothers and rates are also high among non-Hispanic whites…

HOST: So that suggests that the public health message is getting out then.

MCDOWELL: Yes … there are several efforts underway to educate mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding … to encourage Health Care providers to promote breastfeeding in pregnant women… and the message does seem to be getting through.

HOST: Given that breastfeeding is free and formula isn’t, why is it that breastfeeding is less common among women of lower income?

MCDOWELL: Well we did not actually examine differences among the income groups… we did observe that the rates of ever having breastfed a baby were lower among lower income women and it could be related to education level… it could be that there are some other time constraints that makes it more difficult for low income women to breastfeed… Also, Health Care providers realize that it is important to breastfeed infants and still the education campaign is continuing…. Women who receive benefits from the supplemental nutrition program for women infants and children receive nutrition packages to support breastfeeding after they give birth so… we have seen improvements and there’s still more work to do.

HOST: Any other points you’d like to cover?

MCDOWELL: Well, it’s encouraging that more women in the U.S. are breastfeeding after they give birth… A number of campaigns educate mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding for themselves as well as for their infants… It’s certainly an important nutritional benefit for newborn infants and we look forward to continuing to monitor these trends in breastfeeding in future surveys…

HOST: Our thanks to Margaret McDowell for joining us on this edition of “Statcast.” Statcast is produced by the public affairs office of the CDC National Center for Health Statistics.


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