More US Babies Getting the Breast

Breastfeeding rates rise in US along with increased rates of newborn skin to skin contact

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Perhaps you have heard the phrase "breast is best," referring to breastfeeding babies. Apparently more women in the US are hearing this message.

A recent report revealed that breastfeeding rates in the US have continued to climb over the past decade.

The percentage of babies being breastfed until 6 months old and until 1 year old has increased from 2000 to 2010.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months and then continue to be breastfed along with solid foods through 1 year old.

"Try to breastfeed your baby."

This report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that 49 percent of babies were breastfed through 6 months old in 2010, up from 35 percent in 2000.

Similarly, 27 percent of babies were breastfed through 1 year old in 2010, up from 16 percent in 2000.

These significant increases in the length of time babies were breastfed are larger than the more modest increase in babies who started breastfeeding at all, regardless of how long.

While 71 percent of babies were breastfed for any amount of time in 2000, the number rose to 77 percent in 2010. The states with the highest rate were California and Idaho, where 92 percent of babies begin breastfeeding.

“This is great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a prepared statement.

“Also, breastfeeding lowers health care costs," Dr. Frieden said. "Researchers have calculated that $2.2 billion in yearly medical costs could be saved if breastfeeding recommendations were met."

The report noted that some of the increase may be related to the increase in "rooming in" occurring in US hospitals.

Rooming in means that a newborn remains in the postpartum hospital room with the mother after birth, instead of spending that time in the nursery.

In 2007, less than a third of hospitals (30 percent) reported that 90 percent of their newborns spent at least 23 hours a day in their mothers' rooms. That number increased to 37 percent in 2011.

In twelve states, more than 55 percent of hospitals reported that most of their newborns roomed in. These states included Delaware, Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

By contrast, 15 states' hospitals reported rates below 25 percent for rooming in. These states included New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota.

The rest of the states' hospitals reported rates between 25 percent and 55 percent.

In addition, 54 percent of hospitals reported that 90 percent of their newborns received skin-to-skin contact with their mothers after birth in 2011, compared to 41 percent in 2007.

Skin-to-skin contact between a newborn and the mother has been shown in research to offer benefits to babies' development and to help with breastfeeding.

This report was published July 31 on the CDC website.

Review Date: 
August 1, 2013
Last Updated:
August 4, 2013