Across all groups, the percentage of mothers who start and continue breastfeeding is rising, according to a report released Feb. 7 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From 2000-2008, mothers who started breastfeeding increased more than 4 percentage points. During that same time, the number of mothers still breastfeeding at six months jumped nearly 10 percentage points, from 35% in 2000 to nearly 45% in 2008.
In addition to increases among all groups, gaps in breastfeeding rates between African American and white mothers are narrowing. The gap narrowed from 24 percentage points in 2000, to 16 percentage points in 2008.
"Breastfeeding is good for the mother and for the infant - and the striking news here is, hundreds of thousands more babies are being breastfed than in past years, and this increase has been seen across most racial and ethnic groups," says CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. "Despite these increases, many mothers who want to breastfeed are still not getting the support they need from hospitals, doctors, or employers. We must redouble our efforts to support mothers who want to breastfeed."
While gaps continue to narrow among groups, more targeted strategies to increase breastfeeding support for African American mothers are still needed.
To address this, CDC is currently funding Best-Fed Beginnings , a project that provides support to 89 hospitals, many serving minority and low income populations, to improve hospital practices that support breastfeeding mothers. CDC has also recently awarded funds to six state health departments to develop community breastfeeding support systems in communities of color.
To better understand breastfeeding trends and differences among African-American, white and Hispanic infants born between 2000 and 2008, CDC analyzed National Immunization Survey data from 2002-2011. Other key findings of the report include:
From 2000-2008, breastfeeding at six and 12 months increased significantly among African-American, white and Hispanic infants.
While numbers are rising across all groups, all mothers need more support to continue breastfeeding since less than half of mothers are breastfeeding at six months (45%) and less than a quarter of mothers (23%) are breastfeeding at 12 months.
Although rates of breastfeeding at six months increased by more than 13% among African-American mothers, this group still had the lowest rates of breastfeeding duration, indicating that they still need more, targeted support.
For more information about CDC efforts to improve support for breastfeeding mothers, specifically hospital practices to support breastfeeding, visit: www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/promotion.