I have been looking at breastfeeding statistics a lot lately. They manage to surprise me in some respects, while shocking me in others.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), among women who gave birth in 2007 in the United States, a whopping 75% started out breastfeeding. This was really a surprise to me. I would have estimated the number to be much lower than that. It is a pleasant surprise and shows that most women at least had the desire and attempted to breastfeed. That’s fantastic!
Unfortunately, according to the same data, nationally only 33% were still exclusively breastfeeding by the time their babies were three months old. At the six month mark, only 13.3% of those babies were still being exclusively breastfed.
The data suggests to me that women really want to breastfeed, but may need more help doing so than is available to them. The key, of course, is education. The more women know about breastfeeding and the more access they have to knowledgeable help, the better their chances of being able to successfully breastfeed.
Take a look at the distribution of breastfed children on this US map:
|Percentage of Children Who Are Breastfed at 6 Months of Age, Among Children Born in 2007 (Provisional) Source: National Immunization Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services|
The thing that immediately caught my eye was that all of the states with fewer than 30% of breastfed babies at the six month mark are poorer states in the southern US. Not only does poverty mean that the women do not have access to the same breastfeeding resources as their wealthier peers- they also live in areas in which the general level of education is lower.
I wondered whether the same people who lacked the breastfeeding resources they need to be successful were also the ones who did not have the resources to take good care of their own nutritional needs.
Take a look at the distribution of adult obesity rates in the US:
|Percent of Obese (BMI > 30) in U.S. Adults Source: CDC Obesity Trends|
Do you see the similarities on the two maps? The states with the highest breastfeeding success rates are also the ones with the lowest percentages of obesity.
The only possible solution is: Better education for the regions that need it most. The state I live in, South Carolina, is among those at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to successful breastfeeding. While 63.8% of women attempt to breastfeed, only 6.9% of infants are still exclusively breastfed at the six month mark. The percentage of adults in this state who are obese is 29.4.
(For those interested, the absolute bottom is Mississippi. Ranking lowest in the breastfeeding statistic, with only 52.5% of women trying to breastfeed and 6.5% of children still being exclusively breastfed at six months, and highest in the obesity statistic, with an obesity rate of 34.4% of the population.
The winner is Colorado, with 88.7% of women breastfeeding initially and 22.5% still exclusively doing it at the six month mark, and the skinniest population with an obesity rate of ‘only’ 18.6%)
Ladies, we should all ask ourselves what we can do to help the women who are most in need of some good breastfeeding help and resources. Let’s start by setting an example and breastfeeding in public as much as possible to establish it as something that is completely natural and socially acceptable.
Are there any other ways that you think we can help?