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September 13th, 2010
04:26 PM ET

CDC: Many moms start breastfeeding, but drop off

Moms are encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months after they give birth, but how many actually follow that advice?

It turns out that 75 percent babies start breastfeeding, but only 43 percent are still being breastfed at 6 months of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card. Even fewer are exclusively breastfed: At age 3 months 33 percent receive breast milk and no other foods or liquids. This is true for 13 percent of babies at age 6 months. 

Since 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended "exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months and support for breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mutually desired by mother and child," because some studies suggest breastfeeding may protect babies against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity and asthma among others and can help reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for the moms.

The numbers are based on children born in 2007. The numbers of babies being breastfed at age 6 months (1.8 million) and 12 months (fewer than 1 million), as well as the numbers of babies exclusively breastfed, are about the same for the third consecutive year.

Utah had the highest rate of babies who had begun breastfeeding, at 90 percent. Mississippi had the lowest, at 52.5 percent.

When it comes to following the six-month rule, Oregon leads the pack with more than 60 percent of babies; Louisiana was last at 20 percent.

An April study in Pediatrics found that nearly 1,000 preventable deaths occur in the U.S. each year because of failure to follow breastfeeding recommendations. Breastfeeding in the first six months of life, as recommended, would save the country $13 billion annually, the study said.

Also, researchers from the Netherlands reported in Pediatrics in June that these breastfeeding recommendations can reduce baby's risk of serious lung and intestinal infections.

Worldwide, breastfeeding for the first six months could stop more than one million child deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Nursing mothers will get support in the health care legislation that President Obama signed this year. That law says that, with the exception of companies with less than 50 employees, employers must provide a space where women can express milk.


soundoff (257 Responses)
  1. Kate

    For those holier than thou types who think that families should "sacrifice" so that mom can be a stay-at-home mom, I just want to say get off your high horse and get down on your knees and thank heaven that you have the opportunity. (Ann Addington). We live in a small house (975 sq feet) and have never been on a "vacation." Some dads are out of work due to the economy, due to health problems, etc., and some moms need to keep working to provide for their families. I will take some time off without pay, but I need to return to work–why? To keep insurance for crying out loud! I, too, work at an educational facility. Asking for anytime beyond six weeks (even though unpaid) seemed to confuse the HR–why would I want to do that? I'll either be pumping in an office shared with others and with a large window like hitrace–or I'll be in a public bathroom used by very unclean college students (you'd be surprised how many of them do not wash their hands–yuk!). I

    September 15, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Kilomena

    I feel very blessed to live in Canada. I am currently on maternity leave with my 3rd child (a little boy who is 1 month old). I am given the chance to remain at home with my son for 50 weeks-paid. I receive 55% of my income from the Government, and this allows me to stay home and continue breast feeding my son. I really wish everyone had this opportunity, because breast feeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby besides loving them.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. olive dougherty

    why doesn't someone do a survey to ask why these women stopped nursing early? sometimes hospitals and doctors who say they are for breastfeeding actually make it much more difficult than it has to be. also, the new idea that you can't breastfeed in bed is undoubtedly discouraging prolonged breastfeeding.

    September 20, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. E Barlow

    Its not easy being a mother in this country. If you breastfeed, all the formula feeders get on your back. If you formula feed, all the holier-than-thou breastfeeders get on your back. Im still breastfeeding my baby at seventeen months. It sucks, Im exhausted and I work full time and breastfeed every two to three hours at night. The baby wants to make up for lost time by feeding a lot at night when Im home. Its a tough burden. But i believe Im doing the right thing for me and my baby's long term health. And Im a big girl, so Im just getting on with living my life the way I bellieve I should, even though its miserable. Two days ago my baby ended up being admitted to hospital for a stomach virus due to high fever with vomiting and diarrhea, by order of the doctor. Once her blood was tested, the doctor told me that she wasn't that dehydrated after all. They also asked me if I was keeping track of how much breast milk my baby was taking in. Seeing as my breasts aren't see-through or have millileter markings on them, I said no, but that my baby had been draining each breast well, just puking up after feeding. When my baby was discharged, the doctor said I should give the baby pedialyte, no mention of continuing to breast feed. What an insensitive, miserable you-know-what she was. When the baby was admitted to hospital, the doctor had said to me that they would have to catherize the baby. I asked the doctor if this would be painful for the baby. She said "didn't you have a catheter when you gave birth in hospital?" I looked at her puzzled and said no. I had delivered with midwives in a hospital. I then figured out why she asked.... the hospital had been in the news for its 50% caesarian rate, and its high epidural rate. The female doctor had just assumed I had had an epidural during birth, during which its routine to catherize a woman. The point im trying to make is: Its about time that everyone stopped making assumptions..... namely assuming that their parenting philosophy is the same as everyone else's. People should start being more sensitive to people's wishes and stop judging them. If you don't want to breastfeed, guess what? that's fine. If you want to breastfeed, thats fine too. lets start collectively supporting our parenting decisions so we can be happy, well-supported parents.

    December 20, 2010 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. PimmyZ

    Bunch of quitters...Cmon ladies, have a seat at the local mall and nurse that baby...I wanna watch!!

    January 14, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.