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The percentage of new mothers who began to breastfeed their babies in the hospital has increased steadily since 1990, reaching a high of 70.1 percent in 2002. Breastfeeding initiation rates have increased among all racial and ethnic groups, and especially among the populations that have traditionally been least likely to breastfeed, such as Black and Hispanic women. These increases have contributed to a substantial reduction in the gap in breastfeeding rates between White and non-White women.

Breastfeeding rates for all women decreased substantially between delivery and 6 months postpartum, the period recommended as most critical for the infant’s health by the U.S. Surgeon General. The percentage of women who report that they are still breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum reached a high of 33.2 percent in 2002. At 6 months postpartum, 36.0 percent, 19.2 percent, and 32.7 percent of White, Black, and Hispanic women, respectively, were still breastfeeding.

Average breastfeeding rates were highest among women who are over 30 years of age, college educated, and not participating in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplementary food program. Overall breastfeeding rates were lowest among women under 20 years of age, Black, low-income, those with less than a high school education, and women living in the southeastern U.S.

Graph: Breastfeeding Rates by Race/Ethnicity[d]

Graph: In Hospital Breastfeeding Rates by Race/Ethnicity[d]