U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Breastfeeding has been shown to promote the health and development of infants, as well as their immunity to disease, and may provide a number of maternal health benefits. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding—with no supplemental food or liquids—through the first 6 months of life, and continued supplemental breastfeeding through at least the first year of life.

Breastfeeding initiation rates in the United States have increased steadily since the early 1990s. In 2007, the parents of 75.5 percent of children aged newborn to 5 years reported that the child had ever been breastfed. Hispanic children were most likely to have been breastfed (82.4 percent), followed by children of other races, including Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans/Alaska Natives (82.2 percent). Non-Hispanic Black children were the least likely to be breastfed (55.5 percent). Breastfeeding rates tend to increase with maternal age, higher educational achievement, and higher income.

Rates of exclusive breastfeeding are significantly lower than rates of breastfeeding initiation. In 2007, the parents of only 12.4 percent of children aged 6 months to 5 years reported that their child was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding varied by family income, with 10.6 percent of children with family incomes below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) being exclusively breastfed through 6 months, compared to 14.7 percent of children with family incomes of 400 percent FPL or above. Exclusive breastfeeding rates have not shown the same improvement over time as have breastfeeding initiation rates, and as with breastfeeding initiation, exclusive breastfeeding varies by a number of demographic and socioeconomic factors, such as maternal age and education.

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