U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has been shown to promote the health and development of infants, as well as their immunity to disease. It also confers a number of maternal, societal, and even environmental benefits.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding— with no supplemental food or liquids— through the first 6 months of life, and continued supplemental breastfeeding through at least
the first year.2

Breastfeeding initiation rates have increased steadily since the early 1990s. In 2007, the parents of 75.5 percent of children from birth to 5 years of age reported that the child had ever been breastfed (including being fed expressed breast milk). Children living in households with incomes of 400 percent of more of the Federal poverty level ($20,650 for a family of four in 2007) were most likely to have been breastfed (83.2 percent), while children living in households with incomes below 100 percent of the Federal poverty level were least likely to have been breastfed (65.7 percent). Initiation of breastfeeding also varies by race/ethnicity, and maternal age and educational achievement.

The percentage of children who are exclusively breastfed for six months is considerably lower than the percent who are ever breastfed. In 2007, the parents of only 12.4 percent of children aged 6 months to 5 years reported that their child was exclusively breastfed for at least the first 6 months of life. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding also varied by family income, with 10.6 percent of children with family incomes below 100 percent of the Federal poverty level being exclusively breastfed through 6 months, compared to 14.7 percent of children with family incomes of 400 percent or more of the Federal poverty level.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services. Benefits of breastfeeding. Available online: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/benefits/; accessed July, 2010.

2 American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics 2005 Feb;115(2):496-506.

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