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Pie graph: CSHCN Breastfed Pie graph: Children Breastfed Bar graph: Children breastfed by Poverty and CSHCN Bar graph: CSHCN by Race/Ethnicity and Language

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Breastfeeding and the Use of Breast Milk

Breast milk is widely recognized to be the ideal form of nutrition for infants. Infants fed breast milk are less susceptible to infectious diseases. Rates of postneonatal mortality (death between the first month and the end of the first year of life) are lower among breastfed infants. Additionally, children who were fed breast milk are less likely to suffer a variety of long-term adult health consequences, including diabetes; overweight and obesity; asthma; and lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease, when compared to children who were not fed breast milk. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, with few exceptions, all infants be fed breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and recommends continuing to breastfeed as long as the mother and child desire.1

Children (aged 0-5) with special health care needs are less likely than other children to have ever been fed breast milk: 68.5 percent of CSHCN in that age group were ever fed breast milk, compared to 76.5 percent of other children. However, this difference is not statistically different after adjustment for other differences between CSHCN and non-CSHCN, such as differences in household income and insurance status. The proportion of children who were ever fed breast milk increased from 2003 to 2007. However, non-CSHCN saw greater increases in breast milk feeding than CSHCN (73.1 percent to 76.5 percent versus 66.2 percent to 68.3 percent). The proportion of CSHCN who were ever fed breast milk varies considerably by state, from less than half (42.1 percent) to nearly all (95.4 percent).

Among children with and without special health care needs, those in lower-income households are less likely to have ever been fed breast milk: only 53.7 percent of CSHCN with household incomes below the Federal poverty level (FPL) were ever breastfed or fed breast milk, compared with 80.9 percent of CSHCN with household incomes of 400 percent or more of FPL.

Hispanic and White children are most likely to have ever been fed breast milk. Among CSHCN, nearly all (92.6 percent) Hispanic children in Spanish-speaking households were ever breastfed/fed breast milk, 72.4 percent of Hispanic children in English primary language households were breastfed/fed breast milk, and 70.2 percent of White children were breastfed/fed breast milk.

1 American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics. 2005;115(2):496-506.