The Health and Well-Being of Children in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation 2005
Home The Child The Child's Family The Child and Family's Neighborhood Order
Overall Child Health Status  |  Children with Moderate or Severe Health Conditions
Breastfeeding  |  Children with Moderate or Severe Socio-Emotional Difficulties  |  Impact of Socio-Emotional Difficulties
Overweight  |  Injury  |  Parents' Concerns  |  Current Health Insurance  |  Coverage Consistency  |  Preventive Health Care Visits
Preventive Dental Visits  |  Medical Home  |  Staying Home Alone  |  Repeating a Grade  |  Regular Physical Activity


Breast milk is widely recognized to be the ideal form of nutrition for infants. Breastfed infants are less susceptible to infectious diseases and are less likely to suffer from diabetes, overweight and obesity, lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease, and asthma compared to children who are not breastfed. In addition, rates of postneonatal mortality (death between the first month and the end of the first year of life) are lower among breastfed infants.1 Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, with few exceptions, all infants be fed with breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of life.

Overall, 38.8 percent of children were breastfed for at least 6 months (although they may not have been exclusively breastfed). Breastfeeding for this duration is noticeably more common among children living in urban areas (40.5 percent). While breastfeeding for at least 6 months is less common in rural areas, the rates are similar between large rural and small rural areas (31.7 and 31.4 percent, respectively).

Overall, breastfeeding through at least 6 months becomes more common with increasing family income. The highest breastfeeding rates are among children living in urban areas with family incomes of 400 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL) or above (47.9 percent); conversely, the lowest rates are among children living in large rural areas with family incomes below 100 percent of FPL (23.1 percent).

Breastfeeding also varies considerably by location within racial and ethnic groups. With few exceptions, within each racial/ethnic group, breastfeeding is more common among children in urban areas. Rates for Hispanic children, however, are reported to be approximately the same (around 40 percent) across locations, and rates among American Indian/Alaska Native children are highest in small rural areas and lowest in large rural areas (42.0 and 25.5 percent, respectively). Overall, the highest reported breastfeeding rates occur among other races and White children living in urban areas (44.8 and 43.9 percent, respectively), and American Indian/Alaska Native children living in small rural areas. The lowest rate occurs among Black children living in small rural areas (8.6 percent).

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

Graph: Percent of children breastfed 6 months or more, by location




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This chartbook is based on data from the National Survey of Children's Health. Suggested citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The National Survey of Children's Health 2003. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005.