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Breast-feeding report shows progress, challenges

Thursday February 7, 2013
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Across all groups, the percentage of mothers who start and continue breast-feeding is rising, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2000 to 2008, mothers who started breast-feeding increased more than four percentage points. During that same time, the number of mothers still breast-feeding at six months jumped nearly 10 percentage points to almost 45% in 2008.

In addition to increases among all groups, gaps in breast-feeding rates between African American and white mothers are narrowing. The gap narrowed from 24 percentage points in 2000 to 16 in 2008.

"Breast-feeding is good for the mother and for the infant — and the striking news here is, hundreds of thousands more babies are being breast-fed than in past years, and this increase has been seen across most racial and ethnic groups," CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release.

"Despite these increases, many mothers who want to breast-feed are still not getting the support they need from hospitals, doctors or employers. We must redouble our efforts to support mothers who want to breast-feed."

To better understand breast-feeding trends and differences among African-American, white and Hispanic infants born from 2000 to 2008, the CDC analyzed National Immunization Survey data from 2002 through 2011.

Other key findings include:

• From 2000 to 2008, breast-feeding at six and 12 months increased significantly among African-American, white and Hispanic infants.

• Although numbers are rising across all groups, all mothers need more support to continue breast-feeding given that only 45% mothers are breast-feeding at six months and only 23% are breast-feeding at 12 months.

• Although rates of breast-feeding at six months increased by more than 13% among African-American mothers, this group still had the lowest rates of breast-feeding duration, indicating that they need additional targeted support.

Gaps among groups continue to narrow, but more targeted strategies to increase breast-feeding support for African-American mothers are needed, according to the CDC. To address the disparity, the CDC funds Best-Fed Beginnings, a project that provides support to 89 hospitals, many serving minority and low-income populations, to improve hospital practices that support breast-feeding mothers. The CDC also recently awarded funds to six state health departments to develop community breast-feeding support systems in communities of color.

For more information about CDC efforts to improve support for breast-feeding mothers, specifically hospital practices to support breast-feeding, visit www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/promotion.

The study appears in the Feb. 8 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and is available at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6205a1.htm?s_cid=mm6205a1_w.

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