Forty-One Percent of Parents Say They Met Their Breastfeeding Goals

In the 2024 State of Feeding report, parents share their expectations and raw experiences with breastfeeding, formula and combination feeding support.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated March 5, 2024
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Amid the calls that “fed is best,” parents know the conversation around feeding baby is way more complicated, complex and confusing. Managing expectations around what your feeding journey may look like and finding the support you need isn’t easy in America, and it shows.

The 2024 State of Feeding report is here to help those in and around the parenting community understand more about the feeding culture in the US and how we can better support parents. The survey, which was conducted on behalf of bobbie, Willow and SimpliFed, evaluated the opinions of 1,899 new parents who have had a baby in the last year.

Researchers compiled the information into a broad sweeping overview of the emotions around feeding, the expectations and the support given to new parents. According to the survey, 71 percent of parents felt proud about breastfeeding, 45 percent felt proud of their pumping efforts, and 24 percent said they felt proud to feed baby formula.

While these percentages underscore the pride that parents have in whatever feeding method they choose, the study’s author professor Emily Oster points out “that these numbers should be 100% for everyone! We should all feel proud of how we are nourishing our children. The fact that they are not 100% for any group tells us we have work to do to make sure all parents feel supported, confident, and happy in the choices they make,” Oster adds.

The study also highlights how the best-laid plans and expectations around feeding can often go awry. Of expectant parents, 98 percent said they had a plan in place for feeding, with 25 percent planning to exclusively breastfeed, 55 percent planning to both breastfeed and pump and 11 percent planning to combine breastfeeding, pumping and formula.

But despite 80 percent of moms intending to exclusively feed their babies breastmilk for at least a year, the research shows that only 25 percent made it to 6 months on breastmilk alone. Seventy-four percent ended up using formula, with 87 percent using a combination of breastfeeding, pumping, and formula. Overall only 41 percent of parents said they met their breastfeeding goals.

While there is nothing wrong with embracing pumping and formula, the gap between expectations and reality can cause grief for moms who feel they have let themselves or their baby down by not meeting their goals. Oster suggests that more parents may feel empowered in their breastfeeding journey, and sustain their goals longer, if they remain open to the prospect of combination feeding.

“Combo feeding (some combination of breast milk and formula) extends the majority of parents’ breastfeeding journeys (for those who rely on it as a feeding choice). This is a clear reminder that when it comes to feeding, it’s not an either/or, but rather a spectrum of choices,” she notes.

Finally, the State of Feeding report touches on the support that parents receive or, more often, don’t recieve in order to make their feeding journey more feasible. Increased efforts to improve breastfeeding support in hospitals and beyond have led 82 percent of parents to report receiving support on their breastfeeding journey. But now, other support methods are dwindling. Almost half of parents - 47 percent - reported receiving no support or education around formula feeding, and 38 percent received no support on pumping.

“It is clear that parents need more support and education across the board when it comes to feeding,” Oster notes. “We’ve all experienced that the systems are broken - we must create societal infrastructure that will meaningfully support parents throughout their feeding journey, regardless of their method.”

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