Moms need more support to breastfeed exclusively
June 4th, 2012
01:41 PM ET

Moms need more support to breastfeed exclusively

Judging by the ruckus that followed TIME magazine's cover story of a woman breastfeeding her 3-year-old (while standing up), one might think that mothers are nursing young boys and girls all the time.  But the statistics show the opposite is true.  

According to the latest CDC statistics 75% of new moms start out breastfeeding their new babies,  but by 6 months, only 44% still are and only 15% are exclusively breastfeeding. By the time a child is a year and a half old, only 8%  are still being nursed.  Now a new study sheds some light on why many moms are not meeting their goals for exclusive breastfeeding.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday, finds that many women plan to exclusively breastfeed their babies, but once the baby is born, they can't do it as long as they had hoped.  Researchers asked 1,457 women who were in their third trimester if they intended to exclusively breastfeed. 85% said they planned to do so for at least for 3 months.

"All of these women that we focused on, all said they wanted to exclusively breastfeed.  Only 32.4% met their goal," says lead-study author Cria Perrine, an epidemiologist in the CDC's division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

One striking statistic is that 15% of these women gave up before leaving the hospital, which is on average only a 2-day stay.  One contributing factor is that 40% of moms reported their baby's feeding was supplemented with formula during the hospital stay.   Recommended guidelines for hospitals highlighted in a  CDC report last year discourages this.

More than half of mothers in this new study stopped exclusively breastfeeding before 2 months, which is when working mothers usually return to their job and only 15% of the moms were exclusively breastfeeding their babies at the 6-month mark.  The study is the first of its kind to track mothers from their last trimester through the first year of their newborn's life.

 The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life.  That means that aside from vitamins (or medications if needed),  infants should only be fed mother's milk (not even water).

The AAP as well as other organizations further recommend that babies be breastfed for at least a year or longer.  Mom's milk provides baby with valuable nutrition, calories, immune protection, while also helping reduce eventual obesity and ear infections. Breastfeeding also is beneficial to mom's health and saves money too.

Last year,  the CDC published a report on how hospitals can do more to help increase the number of mom's who successfully breast feed.  In this new report, researchers looked at a woman's intention to breastfeed before the baby was born and then how successful they were.  The obstacles remain the same.

Perrine says because the drop-off in breastfeeding exclusively continued in the in first month, it's not just the hospital, it's also work and the community that aren't offer enough support to moms.  If new moms start off breastfeeding (and not all moms can), they need help and encouragement from family members and maybe even pediatricians to stick with it, even when it is difficult.  When working moms return to their job, they may find it impossible to pump breast milk, either due to lack of time or proper facilities to do so.  While this study didn’t look at how comfortable mothers are breastfeeding outside of the home, Perrine believes that too many women experience negative reactions when breastfeeding in public, and overall more needs to be done to move towards broader social acceptance and support of breastfeeding to help mothers meet their goals.

A 2010 study in Pediatrics found that if most new moms breastfed their babies for the first 6 months of life,  it would save nearly 1,000 lives and 13 billion dollars (for health care costs and parents time away from work) each year – which doesn't include the savings on formula expenses.

soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. Mark Glicker

    Thank God! Another study.

    June 4, 2012 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Myviewis

    Saves $13 billion dollars? But will these moms maintain a healthy diet, exercise, sleep lots, no stress and not drink and smoke for 6 months while breastfeeding? Perhaps moms didn't tell the researchers that they stop breastfeeding because they want to go back to normal life and weight.

    June 4, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristie

      Your ignorance is showing.

      June 4, 2012 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
    • pdxmum

      Really, you can go back to a 'normal' life after baby? Is there such a thing? Your statement makes it sound like mothers stop breastfeeding because they're selfish and want to keep pretending they're just babysitters and not actual mothers.

      June 4, 2012 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
    • April

      Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to get back to your pre-baby weight. You literally burn calories while just sitting there! I was back to pre-baby in 3 months.

      June 5, 2012 at 22:29 | Report abuse |
  3. Meir Weiss

    Reblogged this on Meir Weiss' Blog and commented:

    June 4, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. krk

    Im all for breast support. ill help hold em. what about that woman who breast feeds her 8 year old. can you say extensive therapy

    June 4, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pdxmum

      Your posts tell me you're a 12 year old who is being prevented from looking at real p.o.r.n. because you haven't figured out your parents' password for the net nanny yet. Either that or you're starved for attention.

      June 4, 2012 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
  5. krk

    Turn meal time into date night, breastfeed till your son is a teenager. no permanent damage there

    June 4, 2012 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. krk

    Save your college fund for therapy, thats all im sayin

    June 4, 2012 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. krk

    I'd ask mom for a topoff, but its just powder now...booo

    June 4, 2012 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. krk

    Now everytime i see a set of big cans, im gonna get hungry

    June 4, 2012 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. krk

    How many ounces in a 38 D cup?

    June 4, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dx2718

      A single breast can store six to eight ounces of milk, and the size doesn't matter (but when they are full they are bigger than when they are empty).

      June 5, 2012 at 08:53 | Report abuse |
  10. krk

    Nice jugs

    June 4, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. krk

    Im hungry

    June 4, 2012 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. krk

    Whip em out, its chow time

    June 4, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. SFriant

    I nursed both my kids for a year. During those 24 total months I experienced full-time, part-time, and quarter-time work, as well as not working and a few trips away from the baby. There are so many challenges with breastfeeding. It is not easy, even for the most dedicated. Our society and laws have a long way to go to support this important way to improve the health of our nation. Longer mandated maternity leaves, more private breastfeeding rooms in public places and supported pumping programs in workplaces are only the start.

    June 6, 2012 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. LML11

    Breastfeeding in America is frowned upon by so many and it is truly sad. I struggled from the start, between fighting hospital staff about pacifiers and formula supplements, fighting the pediatrician about formula supplements and no support from my family or partner. That said, I still breastfed until just after my son turned two. I had supplements unfortunately, but really and truly, the only support I found was from one or two people who were really my rocks. Everywhere I went, people would get annoyed when I would nurse, even when I covered up and had either a blanket on or a wrap around my son. You couldn't even see anything but people would get so rude about it. It's sad that we support chemically created food and snub what is naturally supposed to occur.

    June 6, 2012 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rivkeleh

      LML, I feel your pain. I too struggled with the hospital insisting that I supplement with formula because (??) I had been gestational diabetic and they were concerned for my son's blood sugar levels, NOT receiving the support of the lactation consultant in the hospital despite requesting it, cancelled breastfeeding classes (yes, there are such a thing) when I was in the hospital, etc. Combined with family pressures because breastfeeding was inconvenient to scheduling (you have to do that AGAIN?) and my own failure to produce enough milk. I nursed, I pumped, I nursed, I met with a paid lactation consultant who told me to nurse and pump, and supplemented with formula when my baby's weight dropped, and at 6 months, when my son began to resist nursing, I gave up. He's fine, healthy, etc., but I regret the stress it caused for us in his first months of life, and it irritates me that so many take the topic as an excuse for booby jokes. It's HARD, particularly in our society, to get the support we need on this issue.

      June 6, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
  15. mama_cow

    When I had my first child, the hospital asked if I would be nursing or formula feeding. I said nursing so they gave me my nursing support bag.... full of enfamil (formula) coupons! Gee, thanks for the support! Post-partum nurses (god love them) are also a little paranoid, and quick to push sugar water and formula if the perfectly healthy baby isn't peeing on demand. You have to REALLY want to make breastfeeding happen, otherwise it is so easy to get beaten down. And that doesn't include employers not being very friendly to nursing moms. You want women to nurse exclusively for 6 months? Then provide 6 months of paid maternity leave!

    June 6, 2012 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Scorned_momma

    what about csection moms ( like me) who try and try but just cant produce enough milk to save our lives and have to suppliment and then we are made to look like bad mommies because we cant produce enough.

    June 6, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katherine

      Thank you!

      June 27, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
  17. jillmarie

    I really feel bad for those who are unable to BF- and kudos to you all for trying! I'll be at the six month mark on the 10th. I am actually pumping right now!
    I agree more moms need a longer, paid maternity leave. I apreciate thast this study was done. I had mixed reactions at the hospital- a delivery nurse was trying to talk me into formula literally as I was climbing onto the bed during labor!
    I had made up my mind and was able to nurse in my daughter'sfirst hour of life. She latched on right away. I wouldn't change my decision for anything- it's great that there are benefits to the mom (I actually got to my pre-pregnancy size in- get this- 10 DAYS!)but it's for my baby's sake.
    More support is needed. I, too came home with tons of formula samples. I gave them away to non-nursing moms, and admittedly returned some to stores for store credit to buy diapers. I got more than 2 months worth of diapers from the exchange! Not bad.

    June 6, 2012 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. AmyG

    I've been giving breastfeeding support online to moms for almost 12 years now. Over the years I've seen the same things over and over again.

    Expectant moms are not given accurate information about what is normal in the course of breastfeeding. so they may be told they have to give formula, because they don't have any milk yet, when they are still in the hospital and it's normal to only have colostrum for the first 3-5 days. That works out perfectly, since baby's stomach when born is the size of a marble, so they certainly don't need 1-2 or more ounces of formula pushed on them by the hospital staff.

    Doctors themselves do not know what the normal course of breastfeeding is. They overreact if baby has not gained weight after birth at a rate like formula fed babies do, when it's normal for a breastfed baby to take about 2 weeks just to get back to birthweight. That's why a mom in the last week retains so much fluids, her baby does the same thing, to give them the extra fluids they need to hold them over during the time that mom only has colostrum for them. up to 10% weight loss is normal for a human baby, but doctors and nurses freak out and start recommending supplementation when it is not necessary. It's normal for a breastfed baby to gain at a rate of 4-7 oz a week, but doctors will recommend supplementation if baby is not gaining 7-14 oz a week. So the mom gets told "it's ok, you just don't make enough milk", and she believes it because the doctor told her so.".

    Doctors just don't know–they don't get enough education on lactation in medical school, often only a few days of info on breastfeeding, yet they may get weeks of information on how to properly formula feed a baby.

    We just don't know what it normal. We don't know what protective effects there may be for normal jaundice of breastfed babies, (bilirubin traps free radicals) instead we panic and advise supplements. We don't seem to know that colostrum coats the digestive tract of newborns so as to help block out allegens and harmful bacteria. We don't seem to realize that breastmilk is low in iron percentage wise, but it's a more easily absorbed form of iron, that baby's system can use more effectively. Or that part of the reason breastmilk is low in iron, is that certain harmful bacteria need extra iron in the digestive tract to multiply, so breastmilk is low in iron to prevent overgrowth of those harmful bacteria.

    And we certainly don't want to think about cancer and breastmilk. That the longer moms breastfeed, the lower their risk of certain cancers like breast cancer. Or that breastfeeding a baby girl can reduce her own risk of breast cancer once she grows up. Amazing stuff.

    The best things we can do is work to normalize breastfeeding, provide accurate information about what to expect and what is normal, and suggest to all new moms to be more stubborn than the breastfeeding problem they seem to be facing. Always ask questions, and don't take 1 person's word for it that breastfeeding needs to be supplemented, or halted. Like any serious medical issue, always get a 2nd opinion.

    June 11, 2012 at 02:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Katherine

    I know breast feeding is best but I get tired of hearing about it to the point where if a woman can't breastfeed for any reason she feels like a bad mom. Children who used bottles are doing just fine in the world and so much pressure shouldn't be placed on a new mom. I tried tirelessly to breastfeed all 3 of my kids and my body just refused to make enough milk to satisfy any of them. Then the pediatrician made things worse by swearing to me that if I just keep feeding and pumping, I'd make more milk. All I did was shed pound after pound and finally my milk simply dried up. I felt like a failure and no new mom should feel like that. Breastfeed if you can but if you can't it's not the end of the world and your baby will still love you and he/she will thrive!!

    June 27, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. nicole

    People who don't take the effort to breast feed and they can physically do it but choose not to is a poor excuse for a mother!

    July 26, 2012 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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