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.