Breastfeeding has become a popular sport among newborns
About 77 percent of new mothers breast-feed their infants at least briefly, the highest rate seen in the United States in more than a decade, according to a government survey released on Wednesday. In 1993 and 1994, just 60 percent of new mothers breast-fed their babies, but rates have been gradually rising ever since, according to regular surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Pics)
“The report shows that the initiation of breast-feeding is at an all-time high,” said Karen Hunter of the disease centers.
Breast-feeding experts said that they were cheered by the report’s numbers but noted that rates of breast-feeding at 6 months of age have remained unchanged and are significantly lower than goals set by government agencies. The most recent C.D.C. survey did not report breast-feeding rates at 6 months because of a lack of data.
“This is encouraging but I think there is still more to be done to improve the rates at 6 months,” said Dr. George Saade, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
The increase in initial breast-feeding has been driven at least in part by a concerted campaign by medical groups and government agencies that have sought to educate mothers about the benefits of breast-feeding and, increasingly, the risks associated with infant formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that mothers breast-feed exclusively for the first six months of their child’s life and continue breast-feeding with baby food as a supplement until at least the child’s first birthday.
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Family Physicians also recommend six months of exclusive breast-feeding but suggest supplemented breast-feeding until the child is at least 2.
Studies have shown that children who are fed formula have increased risks of ear and respiratory infections, obesity, diabetes and even cancer.
The latest survey is part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which involve in-person interviews and physical examinations. The findings are based on data from 434 infants collected in 2005 and 2006.
A telephone survey released last year found that 74 percent of infants in 2004 had been breast-fed. Indeed, three different surveys have found that breast-feeding rates are on the rise.
In the most recent survey, breast-feeding rates increased among non-Hispanic black women to 65 percent from 36 percent in 1993 and 1994. Eighty percent of Mexican-American infants and 79 percent of non-Hispanic white infants had been breast-fed.
The age and income of mothers played important roles. Just 57 percent of poor mothers and only 43 percent of mothers under 20 breast-fed their infants, the survey found.
Dr. Barbara L. Philipp, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University, said the C.D.C. survey had not asked mothers whether they breast-fed exclusively. “One sip was positive, so they set the bar very low,” Dr. Philipp said.
Dr. Philipp said that while doctors and nurses were doing a better job of emphasizing the benefits of breast-feeding to patients, most continue to offer new mothers free diaper bags containing infant formula when mothers go home with their newborns.
“That’s a problem because at least five studies have shown that when a doctor or nurse hands the family that bag, even if they take the formula out, that mother will have less success with breast-feeding,” Dr. Philipp said.
A group recently started a campaign called Ban the Bags, hoping to persuade hospitals to refuse to provide the free bags of infant formula, but it has had limited success.
Via NY Times