More American mothers are breastfeeding, and a record number are still breastfeeding at six months, says a new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From 2000 to 2008, the proportion of mothers who started off breastfeeding rose more than four percentage points. The increase in breastfeeding mothers has been observed across all groups, the authors wrote. They added that in 2000, thirty-five per cent of mothers were still breastfeeding at six months, compared to nearly 45% in 2008.

Although Caucasian women still breastfeed more than African-American mothers, the gap is closing – from 24 percentage points in 2000 to just 16 in 2008.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said:

“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.

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.”

The CDC says that more targeted strategies to provide African-American mothers with support are needed, despite the closing gap.

The CDC is currently sponsoring Best-Fed Beginnings, a nationwide effort working closely with Baby-Friendly USA that provides support to hospitals so that they may improve maternity care and increase the number of Baby-Friendly hospitals around the country. Ninety hospitals have been recruited to take part in a 22-month learning collaboration to “make system-level changes to maternity care practices in pursuit of Baby-Friendly designation”.

Many of the hospitals serve minority and low income populations.

The CDC says it has also awarded funds to six state health departments so that they can develop breastfeeding support systems in African-American communities.

The authors of the report gathered and examined data from the National Immunization Survey from 2002 to 2011.

Below are some highlighted data from the report:

  • The percentage of African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic infants who were breastfed at six and 12 months increased considerably
  • 45% of all mothers are breastfeeding at 6 months. The CDC says that even though this represents a considerable improvement, it is still a low number – mothers need more support.
  • 23% of all mothers are breastfeeding at 12 months
  • African-American mothers are still the least likely to breastfeed and/or breastfeed for long; an indication that they continue to need more and targeted support. However, rates of breastfeeding have risen by over 13%

Only 4% of US hospitals provided mothers with the full range of support for breastfeeding, a CDC Vital Signs report informed in August 2011. The authors emphasized that hospitals must provide full support to mothers and their newborns, and that breastfeeding plays a crucial role in optimizing the health of American infants.

Breastfeeding has many benefits compared to formula-milk:

Written by Christian Nordqvist