2008 Breastfeeding statistics

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m trying to center this week’s posts on breastfeeding. The World Health Organization estimates that about 1.3 million babies around the world die every year from not being breastfed. Although the causes are multitude and much worse in “developing” countries (including things like using dirty water to mix the formula; diluting the formula too much to make it last longer; the natural antibodies and other protection that formula-fed babies miss out on that might keep them from developing devastating diseases in third-world countries), American babies are not immune to the ill effects of not being breastfed. Fortunately, we tend to have excellent medical care, so that the effects are minimal. Hopefully. [For premature infants, there is a marked decrease in necrotizing enterocolitis, which is often deadly, the more breastmilk the baby consumes. I forget the exact rate, but I think exclusive breastfeeding cuts the risk of this disease in half; even partial breastfeeding reduces the rate.]

It’s a national goal to increase breastfeeding rates, and to lengthen the time that babies exclusively breastfeed. So, how well are we doing? From the CDC’s official government statistics of 2008 come the following tables (I’m only including the PDFs that deal with breastfeeding):

Table 3, National Statistics asking if the child was ever breastfed (so I’m assuming even one time would be included) — only 62% of American babies were ever breastfed in 2008. That’s less than 2/3. Not good. The data is further broken down into how many weeks or months the babies were ever breastfed, with 9 months and 12 months both getting around 20%, and 18 months + being 10%. Considering the bias against nursing older children, and the number of mothers I know (either personally or via mommy groups online) that talk about trying to wean their babies at 9 months or by a year; and considering the looks women are given (or the rude, “Are you still nursing that child???) for nursing their older children, I actually assumed the numbers would be lower. There is also data about exclusive breastfeeding up to 3 months (12.9%) and 6 months (7.2%).

Table 7 looks at rates of breastfeeding, TV viewing and household smoking — an interesting combination to say the least! They’re broken down by states, with the national stats on the final line. I’m guessing that based on the high number of “0” in the various data fields that this information is incomplete for numerous states. For instance, California has zeros straight across, except in the number/rank of smoking, but it is one of the few states that has met the 2010 breastfeeding goals. Mississippi likewise has straight goose eggs (but I’m sure it’s *sigh* at or near the bottom for breastfeeding). So, make of that chart what you will.

Table 9 looks at the same rates as Table 7, but breaks them down by race instead of by state.

Finally, Table 13 looks at the trends in breastfeeding, with a summary of data from 2008 back to 1980. We’ve basically steadily improved in the last 28 years (how could we get any worse??), but we’ve still a long way to go.

Then there is some older data from the CDC — showing data from the 2000-2006, with some of the ’06 data still “provisional.”

  • 10 states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington – achieved all five Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding objectives.
  • One in four breastfed infants are supplemented with infant formula within 2 days of birth. The corresponding rates of formula supplementation among infants who breastfed at least 3 and 6 months were 38% and 45%, respectively
  • Disparities in breastfeeding continue to exist, with non-Hispanic black and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups having lower breastfeeding rates.

At the bottom of the page are links to click to see the rates by state. If you click on the links, it will show you a map of the United States, with the different states in different shades of blue, with the legend indicating which percentile range the state is in. Depending on the data you’re looking at (ever breastfed, breastfed exclusively at 3 or 6 months, etc.), the range will be different — sometimes as little as a few points; other times as much as 10 percentage points.


5 Responses

  1. Wow… Thank you for sharing this info. My daughter was exclusively breastfed until six months and is still breastfeeding at 22 months. The whole time I have felt like I could count on one hand the number of moms I know who breastfeed. Sad… Yes, it is hard the first few weeks, but, in most cases, it is doable. One thing that was beyond helpful for me was having access to a lactation consultant at the hospital where I delivered and at the pediatrician’s office.

  2. Recently while going through an old purse, I stumbled on a bookmarker with breastfeeding hints on it. It was given to me during an inservice at the hospital I used to work with. I thought to myself then that the hospital needed to purchase some to hand out to the new mothers. But I never had enough time to present my ideas. I quit my job as a labor and delivery nurse in 2006. This month I will be starting my new job as a volunteer labor/postpartum doula. I am on my own mission. I will have to buy those very same bookmarkers and hand them out myself. Thanks for the great post

  3. Thanks for the stats! Amazing (and a little infuriating, when you think about the barrage of formula ads and samples women get in the hospital. Sabotage!). My sister-in-law is working to become a lactation consultant — she had a really difficult time beginning breastfeeding her first, but with the support of her mother and a great lactation consultant, she persevered… and recently helped her best friend (who hadn’t been able to persist in breastfeeding with her first two children) successfully breastfeed her third child. Now she’s passionate about passing along that knowledge to other women. Recently, a friend of hers who works at social services said that, of all the women they assisted (with WIC, food stamps, etc.), there were two in the county that they knew were breastfeeding. TWO!! Out of how many hundreds of women? That really lit a fire under her to get working on her certification!

    That’s a long way around the barn to say… yay! Great post! Yay breastfeeding! 🙂

  4. I have 3 boys now 14, 8, 5 and I breast feed them all…the first for only 3 months one due to inexperience and he was lactose intolerant and spit up excessively after each feeding..I am not exactly sure why or if it was the extra milk I was consuming going thru…For the 2nd and 3rd I did supplement with formula 1x aday at 10pm for the first 2months I would use it as a break for my nipples expecially in the beginning ..Then it became more of an inconvience to make the bottle so I strictly went to breastfeeding until around 12 months when I switched them to cows milk and a cup..It is one of the best experiences to have with your baby and it makes me feel like I did the right thing

  5. It is infuriating to know that mothers would rather buy POWDER than give their child the thing they need the most – breastmilk. Oh the irony.

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