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Breastfeeding Rates Vary Widely by State

National Average for Breastfeeding at Least 6 Months Is Less Than 15%

WebMD Health News

Aug. 5, 2004 -- The number of new mothers who start breastfeeding their infants and stick with it for six months or more varies widely from state to state in the U.S., according to a new CDC report.

The study shows the national average for exclusive breastfeeding for six months in 2003 was 14.2%, and only Oregon had an exclusive-breastfeeding rate of more than 25% at six months.

It's the first time the CDC has released state-by-state data on breastfeeding rates.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively -- with no baby formula -- for the first six months of life. To see how your state fared on this recommendation, see the table below.

State

Exclusive Breastfeeding1
at 6 Months

Alabama

11%

Alaska

20%

Arizona

17%

Arkansas

7%

California

16%

Colorado

15%

Connecticut

15%

Delaware

10%

District Of Columbia

13%

Florida

14%

Georgia

14%

Hawaii

21%

Idaho

24%

Illinois

11%

Indiana

12%

Iowa

12%

Kansas

16%

Kentucky

10%

Louisiana

7%

Maine

19%

Maryland

17%

Massachusetts

14%

Michigan

13%

Minnesota

22%

Mississippi

5%

Missouri

12%

Montana

21%

Nebraska

13%

Nevada

12%

New Hampshire

17%

New Jersey

18%

New Mexico

13%

New York

14%

North Carolina

12%

North Dakota

16%

Ohio

15%

Oklahoma

9%

Oregon

27%

Pennsylvania

13%

Rhode Island

13%

South Carolina

14%

South Dakota

15%

Tennessee

12%

Texas

12%

Utah

22%

Vermont

24%

Virginia

16%

Washington

21%

West Virginia

7%

Wisconsin

16%

Wyoming

13%

1Exclusive breastfeeding is defined in this study as only breastmilk and water - no solids or other liquids.

Source: 2003 National Immunization Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services

"With this new information, state health departments can compare the breastfeeding rates in their states and communities with national objectives," says Donna Stroup, PhD, acting director of the CDC's Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, in a news release. "The information will help agencies concentrate their efforts where they are most needed and develop targeted programs to promote breastfeeding."

Breastfeeding by State

The information in the report was gathered from the CDC's 2003 National Immunization Survey which surveyed mothers in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and selected geographic regions within the states.

According to the survey, only six states -- Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington -- met all of the following Healthy People 2010 objectives for breastfeeding:

  • 75% of new mothers initiate breastfeeding.
  • 50% continued to breastfeed for at least six months.
  • 25% continued to breastfeed for at least 12 months.

Fourteen states met the first objective of having at least 75% of new mothers initiate breastfeeding. The top five states in this category were Oregon (88%), Washington (88%), Utah (85.5%), Idaho (83.8%), and California (83.7%).

Eight states met the second goal of having 25% or more of mothers continuing to breastfeed for at least 12 months. The top states in this category were Hawaii (31%), Vermont (30%), and Alaska (28.9%).

Researchers also found that lower-income mothers and non-Hispanic black mothers had consistently lower rates of breastfeeding compared with others.

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