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Breastfeeding on the rise in the US

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
breastfeeding, baby-friendly hospitals, increase, breast milk, species specific

According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to rise; they are increasing annually by about 2% for breastfeeding initiation, breastfeeding at six months, and breastfeeding at 12 months. Between 2008 and 2009, breastfeeding initiation increased from 74.6% to 76.9%. During the same period, breastfeeding at six months increased from 44.3% to 47.2% and breastfeeding at one year increased from 23.8% to 25.5%.

The CDC’s “Breastfeeding Report Card — United States, 2012” accessed data from the National Immunization Survey, measured state by state, and compared those data with breastfeeding objectives outlined in the Healthy People program. That program was launched three decades ago by the US Department of Health and Human Services; it sets 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. The Breastfeeding Report Card also takes into account other outcomes and process indicators.

The report card also found improvements in how many hospitals and birth centers support healthy breastfeeding practices. The CDC’s Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey assesses and scores how well maternity care practices at hospitals and birth centers support breastfeeding, on a scale of 0–100 (the higher score indicates better practices). It also notes that from 2009 to 2011, the national average mPINC score for states increased from 65 to 70; in 26 states and the District of Columbia, scores increased by 5 points or more.

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The survey also notes that more infants are being born in hospitals and birthing centers designated as “Baby-Friendly.” The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program jointly supported by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It provides international recognition to facilities that adhere to best practices in maternity care. During 2008, less than 2% of infants in the nation were born in baby-friendly” facilities; however, during the last four years, that percentage has more than tripled, to 6.22%.

Despite the continuing increases in breastfeeding and baby-friendly facilities, the report also notes that “many mothers are not receiving the quality of care that will give them the best possible start to meeting their breastfeeding intentions.”

According to the American Academy of pediatrics, human milk is species-specific; furthermore, all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes. In addition, human milk-fed premature infants receive significant benefits with respect to host protection and improved developmental outcomes compared with formula-fed premature infants.

The complete CDC report is available at this link.
An excellent source of breastfeeding information provided by Stanford Medical Center is available at this link.