I have heard this issue many times. I was surprised when my pediatrician quoted these numbers to me just a few months ago.
Health officials say that nearly three-quarters of new mothers in the United States are breastfeeding their babies, but they are quitting too soon and resorting to infant formula too often.
A government survey found that only about 30 per cent of new moms are feeding their babies breast milk alone three months after birth. At six months, only 11 per cent are breastfeeding exclusively.
Formula isn’t as good at protecting babies against diseases, eczema and childhood obesity. Ideally, nearly all mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months or more, said Dr. David Paige, a Johns Hopkins University reproductive health expert.
But many do not because of their jobs, the inconvenience and perhaps because of convincing advertising for baby formula.
What’s wrong with giving a baby a bottle every once in a while? Not much, except it can begin a pattern as a child sucks at the breast less, causing less stimulation needed to produce milk, Paige said.
“It creates a downward spiral,” he said, adding that often a woman then moves away from breastfeeding altogether.
The annual random-digit-dial survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of women who start breast-feeding rose slightly from 2000 to 2004, from 71 per cent to 74 per cent. That’s a new high, CDC officials said, and is based on nearly 17,000 responses.
A previous survey suggested a higher percentage breastfed exclusively — 39 per cent at three months and 14 per cent at six months. However, researchers think there may have been confusion in that earlier survey that led to the higher percentage.
There is a belief out there that a baby needs to be only breastfed for up to six months. The World Health Organization says that you should exclusively breastfeed for six months and then introduce solid foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Breastmilk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life.
Breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.
The maternity leave policy in the US definitely plays a part in these numbers. New moms deserve to get more that 12 weeks leave. Having to go back to work so soon after the babies arrival makes it hard for the baby to keep stimulating milk production. Not to mention the fact that those babies need to be fed by bottle while moms at work.