Breast milk is widely recognized to be the ideal form of nutrition for infants. Breastfed infants were less susceptible to infectious diseases and children who were breastfed were 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) were 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 5 and younger were ever breastfed or fed breast milk. Urban children were considerably more likely than those in rural areas to have ever been fed breast milk: 77.0 percent were ever breastfed, compared to 67.6 percent of children in large rural areas and 69.8 percent of those in small rural communities.
In all locations, breastfeeding was more common in families with higher household incomes. Children in urban areas with household incomes of 400 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL) or more were the most likely ever to be breastfed (83.9 percent), and in each location, breastfeeding rates were highest among children with the highest household incomes. Likewise, the lowest rates were found among children with incomes below the FPL, ranging from 68.7 percent of children in urban areas to 51.5 percent of those in large rural areas.
Breastfeeding also varied by location within certain racial and ethnic groups. Among both White and Black children, those in urban areas were more likely than those in either large or small rural areas ever to be breastfed. Overall, the highest rate of breastfeeding was found among Hispanic children whose families primarily spoke Spanish in urban areas (88.1 percent), and the lowest was among Black children in large rural areas (32.5 percent).
1 American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics 2005;115(2):496-506.