It seems that the message “breast is best” is making some serious waves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a recent study that analyzed the breastfeeding rates in the United States, they found that more mothers are choosing the breastfeed, and they’re doing it for longer periods of time.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding provides many benefits for both mother and baby, including:
- Babies experience less constipation, diarrhea, and/or vomiting
- Fewer chest and ear infections for babies
- Babies have a lower risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life
- Breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer
- Breastfeeding can help build a stronger bond between mother and baby
- High risk breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies, including asthma
- Breastfeeding can help regulate hormones, decrease chances of severe postpartum bleeding, and help with postpartum weight loss
- Breastfed babies tend to have fewer hospitalizations than bottle-fed infants
And it seems that more moms and their babies are reaping those benefits.
When comparing the rates from 2000 to 2008, researchers found that the percentages of mothers who started out nursing rose more than four percent. And even though African-American women are still behind Caucasian mothers, the gap seems to be closing; it’s gone from 24 percentage points in 2000 to just 16 points in 2008.
The CDC says that mothers are also breastfeeding for longer periods of time. In 2000, only 35 percent of breastfeeding mothers were still nursing at six months; in 2008, that percentage had risen to nearly 45%. What’s more, 23% of all mothers who started out breastfeeding were still doing so at 12 months.
“Breastfeeding is good for the mother and for the infant – and the striking news here is, hundreds of thousands more babies are being breastfed than in past years, and this increase has been seen across most racial and ethnic groups,” CDC Director, Tom Freiden, M.D., M.P.H. told Medical News Today.
But while the increases are obviously good, the CDC says that the numbers still aren’t as high as they’d like, especially where breastfeeding duration is concerned. They say that mothers need more support, especially after they leave the hospital.
“Despite these increases, many mothers who want to breastfeed are still not getting the support they need from hospitals, doctors, or employers,” Freiden said. “We must redouble our efforts to support mothers who want to breastfeed.”
The CDC is doing their part to help by sponsoring Best-Fed Beginnings, a nationwide effort that is working closely with the Baby-Friendly USA program – a program that provides support to hospitals so that they can make improve maternity care and make them more “breastfeeding friendly.”
More than ninety hospitals have been recruited to participate in a 22-month learning program that is designed to help hospitals “make system-level changes to maternity care practices in pursuit of Baby-Friendly designation.” Many of those hospitals serve minority and low-income populations, which are the populations who often have the lowest breastfeeding rates. In addition to those efforts, the CDC says they have recently awarded grants to six state health departments to help develop breastfeeding support systems in African-American communities.
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