Health Status > Maternal Health
Breast milk benefits the health, growth, immunity,
and development of infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased
risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and possibly a decreased risk
of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.1
In 2004, 64.7 percent of U.S. infants were breastfed
in the hospital after birth. Non-Hispanic Blacks had the lowest
hospital breastfeeding rate (48.3 percent) in 2004. This compares
to a rate of 72.8 percent among Asian mothers, 69.1 percent among
non-Hispanic White mothers, and 62.5 percent among Hispanic mothers.
Younger mothers, mothers with lower educational attainment, and
mothers receiving WIC program benefits also had lower breastfeeding
Although a majority of infants are breastfed
in the hospital, the rate declines as infants grow older. In 2004,
31.9 percent of infants were fed any breast milk at 6 months. The
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively
breastfed-without supplemental food or liquids-for the first 6 months
of life, based on research evidence of reduced risk of upper respiratory
and other common infections. Yet in 2004, only 17.4 percent of infants
were exclusively breastfed at 6 months.
Mothers who return to work after their infant
is born may have an especially difficult time breastfeeding. Breastfeeding
mothers need both the time and the facilities to pump their milk;
not surprisingly, women who are employed full-time when their infant
is 6 months of age are less likely than other women to breastfeed.
The breastfeeding rate at 6 months among women employed full-time
is 27.5 percent, compared to 35.9 percent among women employed part-time
and 33.4 percent among women who are not employed.
1 American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on
Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics