Breast milk is widely recognized to be the ideal form of nutrition for infants. Breastfed infants are less susceptible to infectious diseases, and children who were breastfed are less likely to suffer from diabetes; overweight and obesity; asthma; and lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin's disease, compared to children who were not breastfed. In addition, rates of postneonatal mortality (death between the first month and the end of the first year of life) are lower among breastfed infants.1 Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, with few exceptions, all infants be fed with breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of life.
Overall, 75.5 percent of children aged 0-5 years were ever fed breast milk, while the remaining 24.5 percent of children were never breastfed. More than 12 percent of children aged 6 months to 5 years were exclusively breastfed—receiving no formula, solid food, or water—for their first 6 months.
The proportion of children ever and exclusively breastfed varies by race and ethnicity. Among children aged 0 to 5 years, Hispanic children and children of other races were most likely to have ever been breastfed (82.4 and 82.2 percent, respectively). Nearly 77 percent of White children and 55.5 percent of Black children were ever breastfed.
Among children aged 6 months to 5 years, White children were most likely to have been exclusively breastfed for 6 months (13.6 percent), followed by Hispanic children and children of other races (12.4 and 12.7 percent, respectively). More than 11 percent of multiracial and 8.3 percent of Black children were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life.
1 American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics 2005; 115(2) 496-506.