Aug. 2, 2007 -- Breastfeeding is becoming more common among U.S. moms, but the CDC sees room for improvement.
The CDC today reported that in 2004, nearly 74% of U.S. moms began breastfeeding their newborns, about 42% breastfed their 6-month-olds, and 21% breastfed their 1-year-olds.
Those figures are up from 2000, when 71% of moms began breastfeeding their newborns, 34% breastfed their 6-month-olds, and almost 16% breastfed their 1-year-olds.
Most of those mothers didn't exclusively breastfeed their babies. In 2004, about 31% of moms exclusively breastfed their babies until the babies were 3 months old and 11% exclusively breastfed their babies until the babies were 6 months old.
That's far below the U.S. government's goal to have 60% of moms exclusively breastfeed their babies aged 0-3 months and for 25% to exclusively breastfeed their babies aged 0-6 months.
Those goals are based on the health benefits of breastfeeding.
"Compared with breastfeeding combined with formula feeding, exclusive breastfeeding provides more protection against lower respiratory tract infections, acute otitis media [ear infections], atopic dermatitis [skin irritation], and childhood obesity," states the CDC.
Babies were less likely to be exclusively breastfed through age 3 months if they were African-American, lived in rural areas, and were born to unmarried women younger than 20 with low incomes and a high school diploma or less.
Those findings come from yearly government surveys conducted by telephone. The surveys included between 12,000 and more than 29,000 parents of babies aged 19-35 months.
Of course, it's not always easy or practical for mothers to breastfeed their babies. Factors that may sway breastfeeding decisions include maternity care practices, interactions with health care workers, and workplace support, notes the CDC.
The CDC calls for more research and new programs to promote exclusive breastfeeding. The breastfeeding statistics appear in this week's edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.