Thursday, June 30, 2011

Special Breastfeeding Help Needed for Some States

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?


  1. I am saddened by these statistics. One though that has me puzzled is that so many moms start off breastfeeding. I don't know if I believe that one. Do they count the moms who give it a shot b/c the LC pops in their room? or were these moms full out EBF for a few weeks and quit for whatever reason??

    Part of what I think I can do as an individual is public awareness. If we can get breastfeeding to become socially acceptable again, there will be people who want to seek out the information on their own so they can be 'like everyone else'. It doesn't matter how much you try to educate someone, if all the people in their lives are telling them breastfeeding is gross, then they are less likely to try, or easier to give up.

    One thing I think we should do as SC breastfeeding moms is get in touch with some BFing moms in those states that have better numbers and see what they thing we should do to turn them around!!

  2. Wow, I don't know what it is like here in Canada, except that we still have "nursing rooms"/ "nursing areas" located in bathrooms. I don't care if it's a semi closed of area inside the bathroom. it's still in a bathroom. Just because you make the "stall" a little bigger and attach another "stall" for my older kids to run around in, it is still a bathroom stall. It's gross and unsanitary. There are reason women don't make it to six months. This is one of them. The other is of course little or no support from family. Another is little information and if you get information you need to travel outside of your home to get the support. As a new mom of a few weeks old baby, the last thing you want to do is leave your house for BFing information. You are just too exhausted. Another is the freedom that a person gets from bottle feeding during the day. You can leave the child with a relative, Daddy can feed the baby. Most people, like me, just don't have the time, nor want to take the time to pump.

    My daughter was the only one I made it past 6mths with, not of my choice. she refused formula and would starve herself. My fourth child is now 6.5mths and EBF. I've considered stopping, but I don't really want to pay for expensive formula, especially since I still have two children in diapers. Not only that. he is my last and this gives me more cuddle time. I do plan on quitting after a year. but that is for personal reasons.

    anyways, there a so many things we can look at. I often wonder though why it's the low income families that are not nursing. It would save them an incredible amount if they did.

  3. I forgot to add that if you have other children, these bfing teaching support classes do not allow the other children to be there. so it makes it almost impossible to attend. Especially for a mom like me who has four children.

  4. Wow, these statistics are so sad. I am a first time mom in Louisiana breastfeeding an 11 month old. What you pointed out about poverty and low breastfeeding rates is the firs thing I noticed too. Which is ironic since breastfeeding is free...

  5. Wow. This is very interesting. I am BFing my 6 month old in Michigan and I see that my state is right there in the middle.

  6. This is incredibly eye opening to me. I've seen the stats about bfing at birth vs 6 mo mark but never compared to obesity rates. I think youhave a great point. I agree education is Tue crux of the issue. Many women stop bc of lack of support,resources or misinformation.

  7. WOW! I live in Colorado and am nursing a 10 month old. I still get looks in public... even from friends. I do believe education is important. Does WIC also have LC's on staff that can visit in the home? I know that they give formula checks and can assist with groceries for a nursing mom. Another barrier could be work. These women probably work in busy, low-income jobs and have no good place to pump, let alone afford a pump to begin with. Sad. I'm your newest follower... I found you via twitter.

  8. Thanks for all your great comments, ladies! If we all work together maybe we can change those statistics! I'm definitely determined to try...