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Breastfeeding

Narrative

Breast milk benefits the health, growth, immunity, and development of infants, and mothers who breastfeed may have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.1 Among infants born in 2008, 74.6 percent were reported to have ever been breastfed, representing a significant increase over the 70.9 percent of infants ever breastfed in 2000.2 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed— without supplemental solids or liquids—for the first 6 months of life; however, only 44.3 percent of infants born in 2008 were breastfed at 6 months of age and only 14.8 percent were exclusively breastfed through the first 6 months.

Breastfeeding practices vary considerably by a number of factors, including maternal race and ethnicity, education, age, and income. With respect to education, infants born to mothers with a college education were most likely to have ever been breastfed (88.1 percent), while infants born to mothers with a high school degree or less were least likely (64.3 and 66.1 percent, respectively). With respect to race and ethnicity, Asian infants were most likely to ever be breastfed (86.7 percent) while non-Hispanic Black infants were the least likely to ever be breastfed (59.0 percent). Infants born to older mothers and those with higher household incomes were also more likely to be breastfed (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). These sociodemographic patterns generally persist with regard to the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding.

Maternal employment can also affect whether and for how long an infant is breastfed; mothers working full-time are less likely to breastfeed at 6 months than those working part-time or not at all.3 In 2011, more than half of all mothers with children under 1 year of age were employed, and two-thirds of those mothers were employed full-time (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).4 The Affordable Care Act of 2010 helps to support breastfeeding among working women by requiring break time and a private, sanitary place for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday.5

1 Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Chew P, Magula N, DeVine D, Trikalinos T, Lau J. Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 153 (Prepared by Tufts-New England Medical Center Evidence-based Practice Center, under Contract No. 290-02-0022). AHRQ Publication No. 07-E0007. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. April 2007.

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 2000-2008, CDC National Immunization Survey. June 2012. Accessed 06/08/12.

3 Ryan AS, Zhou W, Arensberg MB. The Effect of Employment Status on Breastfeeding in the United States. Women's Health Issues. 2006; 16: 243-251.

4 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment characteristics of families in 2011 (USDL 12-0771). Washington, DC: The Department; April 2012. [Table 6]. Accessed 02/23/11.

5 Drago R, Hayes J, Yi Y. Better Health for Mothers and Children: Breastfeeding Accommodations Under the Affordable Care Act. Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research. 2010

Graphs

Data

Infants* Who Are Breastfed, by Maternal Education and Duration, 2008
Education Percent of Infants
Ever Breastfed** Any at 6 Months Exclusively at 6 Months†
*Includes only infants born in 2008; data are provisional.
**Reported that child was ever breastfed or fed human breast milk.
†Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as only human breast milk-no solids, water, or other liquids. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Survey. Unpublished data.
Total 74.6 44.3 14.8
Less than High School 66.1 35.4 11.6
High School 64.3 34.2 11.3
Some College 77.4 41.1 14.6
College 88.1 61.6 20.2
Infants* Who Are Breastfed, by Race/Ethnicity and Duration, 2008
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Infants
Ever Breastfed** Any at 6 Months Exclusively at 6 Months†
*Includes only infants born in 2008; data are provisional.
**Reported that child was ever breastfed or fed human breast milk.
†Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as only human breast milk?no solids, water, or other liquids.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Survey. Unpublished data.
Non-Hispanic White 75.3 46.0 16.1
Non-Hispanic Black 59.0 30.7 8.1
Hispanic 80.2 46.0 14.3
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 67.5 44.1 22.0
Non-Hispanic American Asian 86.7 68.4 24.4
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 71.6 36.1 8.1