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Breastfeeding

Narrative

Breast milk benefits the health, growth, immunity, and development of infants, and mothers who breastfeed may have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.1 Among infants born in 2007, 75.0 percent were reported to have ever been breastfed, representing a significant increase over the 68.3 percent of infants ever breastfed in 1999. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed—without supplemental solids or liquids—for the first 6 months of life;2 however, only 43.0 percent of infants born in 2007 were breastfed at 6 months, and only 13.3 percent were exclusively breastfed through 6 months.

Breastfeeding practices vary considerably by a number of factors, including maternal race and ethnicity, education, age, and income. With respect to education, infants born to mothers with a college education were most likely to have ever been breastfed (88.3 percent) and to continue to be breastfed, while only about two-thirds of infants born to mothers with a high school degree or less were breastfed. With respect to race and ethnicity, Asian infants were most likely to ever be breastfed (86.4 percent) while non-Hispanic Black infants were the least likely to ever be breastfed (58.1 percent). Infants born to older mothers and those with higher household incomes were also more likely to be breastfed. These sociodemographic patterns persist with regard to the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding.

Maternal employment can also affect whether and for how long an infant is breastfed; mothers working full-time are less likely to breastfeed at 6 months than those working part-time or not at all.3 In 2009, half of all mothers with children under 1 year of age were employed, and two-thirds of those mothers were employed full-time.4 The Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010, helps to support breastfeeding among working women by requiring break time and a private, sanitary place for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday.5

1 Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Chew P, Magula N, DeVine D, Trikalinos T, Lau J. Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 153 (Prepared by Tufts-New England Medical Center Evidence-based Practice Center, under Contract No. 290- 02-0022). AHRQ Publication No. 07-E0007. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. April 2007.
2 Gartner LM, Morton J, Lawrence RA, Naylor AJ, O’Hare D, Schanler RJ, et al. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005;115(2):496-506.
3 Ryan AS, Zhou W, Arensberg MB. The Effect of Employment Status on Breastfeeding in the United States. Women’s Health Issues. 2006; 16: 243-251.
4 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment characteristics of families in 2009 (USDL 10-0721). Washington, DC: The Department; May 2010. [Table 6]. Accessed 02/23/11.
5 Drago R, Hayes J, Yi Y. Better Health for Mothers and Children: Breastfeeding Accommodations Under the Affordable Care Act. Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research. 2010.

Graphs

Data

Infants* Who Are Breastfed, by Maternal Education and Duration, 2007
Education Percent of Infants
Ever Breastfed** Any at 6 Months Exclusively at 6 Months†
*Includes only infants born in 2007; data are provisional.
**Reported that child was ever breastfed or fed human breastmilk.
†Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as only human breastmilk—no solids, water, or other liquids.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 1999-2007, CDC National Immunization Survey, Data Tables. July 2010. Accessed 02/23/11.
Less than High School 67.0 37.0 9.2
High School 66.1 31.4 8.9
Some College 76.5 41.0 14.4
College 88.3 59.9 19.6
Total 75.0 43.0 13.3
Infants* Who Are Breastfed, by Race/Ethnicity and Duration, 2007
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Infants
Ever Breastfed** Any at 6 Months Exclusively at 6 Months†
*Includes only infants born in 2007; data are provisional.
**Reported that child was ever breastfed or fed human breastmilk.
†Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as only human breastmilk—no solids, water, or other liquids.  
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 1999-2007, CDC National Immunization Survey, Data Tables. July 2010. Accessed 02/23/11.
Non-Hispanic White 76.2 44.7 14.8
Non-Hispanic Black (May include Hispanics) 58.1 27.5 8.0
Hispanic 80.6 46.0 13.4
American Indian/Alaska Native (Includes Hispanics) 73.8 42.4 13.2
Asian (Includes Hispanics) 86.4 58.6 16.8
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (Includes Hispanics) 72.4 45.3 6.5

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