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Breastfeeding Rates Vary Widely by State

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

Breastfeeding by State continued...

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.

Breastfeeding Benefits Mother and Baby

"It's important for new and expectant mothers to know that breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and young babies. It's inexpensive, convenient, and it's uniquely tailored to meet all of a baby's nutritional needs for the first six months of life," says William Dietz, MD, director of CDC's division of nutrition and physical activity, in the release. "Also, breastfed babies tend to gain less unnecessary weight that can contribute to overweight and obesity later in life."

Researchers say breast milk contains valuable antibodies that can protect infants from infection. Babies who are breastfed also have less frequent diarrhea and fewer ear infections and respiratory infections.

Mothers who breastfeed also burn more calories, which makes it easier for them to return to their pre-pregnancy weight. Research also shows women who breastfeed have lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers.

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