How Many Moms Actually Breastfeed for a Year?
When it comes to giving baby a healthy head start, American moms have a great track record: Just over 81 percent of women start out nursing baby from birth. But for a variety of reasons, the drop-off that follows—as detailed in the 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—is steep.
By the six-month mark, only about half of babies (51.8 percent) are breastfed, at least partially. Considering the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until baby is 6 months old, that’s not a stellar stat. The CDC also found that by 12 months, only about 30 percent of infants are breastfed in any capacity.
Some women can’t breastfeed, or encounter significant problems that make formula a better option for baby’s health and nutrition. A recent study by Lansinoh found that in the US, the no. 1 reason women stopped breastfeeding was because of concerns that it wasn’t working for baby. A lack of support in the workplace was a very close second.
CDC researchers think more education and support from both health care professionals and local communities will help breastfeeding moms overcome many of their setbacks.
“We are pleased by the large number of mothers who start out breastfeeding their infants,” says Ruth Petersen, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “Mothers can better achieve their breastfeeding goals with active support from their families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders, employers and policymakers.”
We’ve already seen improvements in several of these areas over the course of the last year. Health care systems are working to get more hospitals designated as baby-friendly, meaning they have specific measures in place to encourage exclusive breastfeeding right from birth. (Some of these measures are currently being scrutinized.) Local communities and policymakers are buckling down on accommodating nursing moms; most recently, New York City passed a bill to add lactation rooms to buildings like job centers and administrative offices for women who may not want to breastfeed in public.
It’s no secret that when it comes to helping breastfeeding moms, we have plenty of work to do. But the CDC remains optimistic, aiming to boost the rate of breastfeeding at 12 months to 34 percent by 2020.