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These Are the 13 Best States for Babies to Get a Strong Start

Some of the top rated states include Colorado, New Jersey and Maryland. See where your home state falls in the rankings.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated October 19, 2023
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Image: Chokniti-Studio/Shutterstock

Each day more than 10,000 babies are born in America. While the time they were born or under what astrological sign may not matter that much, where they were born has a huge impact. According to ZERO TO THREE’s 2023 State of Babies Yearbook, where baby is born and lives in their first 3 years can make a difference in whether they have a strong start in life.

The survey analyzes the challenges babies in the US face during the first three years of their life based on where they live. It determines infants’ and toddlers’ potential for healthy development according to three categories:

  • Good Health
  • Strong Families
  • Positive Early Learning Experiences

Good Health

Healthy babies are more likely to become healthy, stable, successful adults. To grow up healthy, babies need support that addresses:

  • Health care access/affordability
  • Maternal health
  • Child health
  • Infant and early childhood mental health

The US is experiencing a maternal mental health crisis and this has an impact on baby, with 21.9 percent of mothers reporting less than optimal mental health. On average, 5.4 in 1,000 babies born in the US will not survive to see their first birthday. This number nearly doubles when you look at Black infant mortality, on average 10.6 in 1,000 Black babies die within their first year of life.

Strong Families

Stable families and strong relationships help baby to grow. We achieve this when policies support:

  • Basic needs
  • Child welfare
  • Home visiting
  • Supportive policies/paid leave
  • Food security
  • Food nutrition

An alarming 14.2 percent of babies don’t have access to enough healthy food due to a lack of resources, according to the report. Only 18.5 percent of families with an infant or toddler living in poverty receive federal cash assistance benefits. And as few as 10 states offer paid family leave.

Positive Early Learning Experiences

Babies learn through play, active exploration of the world around them and through positive interaction with the adults in their lives. These early experiences are crucial for supporting healthy development. Key factors include:

  • Early care and education opportunities
  • Early intervention and prevention services

Despite the high cost of infant care, only 4.6 percent of low- and moderate-income infants and toddlers are served by the Child Care and Development Fund, the survey says. Additionally, only 36.8 percent of infants and toddlers are read to every day, and just 33.8 percent received a developmental screening in the past year.

Based on each state’s scores on the above the state was given a ranking of—from lowest to highest—Getting Started, Reaching Forward, Improving Outcomes or Working Effectively.

Top states overall for baby

The below states all recieved “Working Effectively” scores based on the above three categories:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

The newest and only addition to the Working Efficently group since last year is Alaska. It’s high scores in the category of Positive Early Learning Experiences projected it to the top.

You can see your state’s overall ranking, as well as how they performed in each of the three areas at StateofBabies.org.

The report shows the high variation parents can see in the quality of life baby will experience in the US based on where they live. It also shows what factors are working for and against young children. While some places are more advanced than others, all states have room to grow in the ways they support parents caring for their kids.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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