Over the last several years, the rate of mothers who choose to at least initiate breastfeeding has consistently (though sometimes slowly) increased. Unfortunately, when it comes to continuing their efforts past the six-month mark, there is still a significant drop in the rate of breastfeeding mothers. Experts say this suggests that, despite the growing trend and awareness of the benefits to breastfeeding, mothers in the U.S. may still lack the support they desperately need.
“High breastfeeding initiation rates show that most mothers in the U.S. want to breastfeed and are trying to do so,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in the recent report and analysis on breastfeeding rates in America. “However, low breastfeeding rates among infants who are 6 and 12 months of age indicate that many mothers do not continue breastfeeding as recommended.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants be exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life, and then continue to breastfeed through their first birthday as new foods are introduced into their diet after six months of age. Around 80 percent of all U.S. mothers are following the first half of that recommendation by breastfeeding once their babies are born. The CDC says those rates are up from 75 percent back in 2008, and up from 70 percent in 2000.
Unfortunately, there is still a drastic drop in breastfeeding rates as infants continue to age. According to the CDC report, only about half are still breastfeeding once their babies reach six months, and only 30 percent said they were still breastfeeding when their babies reached a year old.
“These rates suggest that mothers, in part, may not be getting the support they need, such as from healthcare providers, family members, and employers,” they said.
Part of the problem could be the continued pressure to return to work, shortly after the baby is born. Little to no paid maternity leave, the fear of no longer having a position in the company or possibly falling behind if they stay out longer, and few work places with in-facility daycare are also possible contributing factors. Paired with stresses or lack of support at home, a lack of support from a pediatrician or family physician, and it is easy to understand why U.S. mothers are still struggling to continue to breastfeed for the recommended amount of time.
All we can hope for is that, as the trend of breastfeeding continues to grow, more employers and lawmakers will take notice. And that, hopefully soon, the rights of women will be seen as rights that affect, not only women, but entire families – sometimes for generations to come.