Child Health USA 2006
Photographs of children's faces

Health Status > Infants


Breastfeeding has been shown to promote the health and development of infants, as well as their immunity to disease; it has also been shown to have a number of benefits to maternal health. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding—without supplemental foods or liquids—through the first 6 months of age, 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 2004, 70.3 percent of mothers ever breastfed their infants. Hispanic women were most likely to breastfeed their infants (79.2 percent), followed by Asian/Pacific Islander and non-Hispanic White women (74.9 and 71.0 percent, respectively). Breastfeeding rates increased with maternal age, higher educational achievement, and higher income.

Breastfeeding rates decrease as infant age increases. In 2004, 36.2 percent of mothers breastfed their infants at 6 months, and 17.8 percent breastfed at 12 months. Exclusive breastfeeding rates have not shown the same improvement over time as breastfeeding initiation. In 2004, only 14.1 percent of women practiced exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months. As with breastfeeding initiation, exclusive breastfeeding rates were higher among Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and non-Hispanic White women, as well as women who were older, educated, and had higher incomes.


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Child Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Child Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.