Breastfeeding has been shown to promote the health and development of infants, as well as their immunity to disease, and may provide a number of maternal health benefits. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding—without supplemental foods or liquids—through the first 6 months of life, and continued supplemental breastfeeding through at least the first year.
Breastfeeding initiation rates in the United States have fluctuated over the past several decades, but have increased steadily since the early 1990s. In 2005, 72.9 percent of infants were ever breastfed. Asian/Pacific Islander infants were most likely to be breastfed (81.4 percent), followed by Hispanic and non-Hispanic White infants (79.0 and 74.1 percent, respectively). Breastfeeding rates increased with maternal age, higher educational achievement, and higher income.
The proportion of infants who are breastfed decreases as infant age increases. In 2005, 39.1 percent of infants were breastfed at 6 months, while 20.1 percent were breastfed at 12 months. Exclusive breastfeeding rates have not shown the same improvement over time as breastfeeding initiation. In 2005, only 13.9 percent of infants were exclusively breastfed at 6 months. As with breastfeeding initiation, exclusive breastfeeding was higher among Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and non-Hispanic White infants, as well as infants whose mothers were older, more educated, and had higher incomes.