Breastfeeding: Good news and not-so-good news
The good news is that three out of four newborns in the United States are being breastfed, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number has gradually increased, just as the government’s Healthy People 2010 had hoped.
The bad news is that the number of babies still being breastfed at 6 months (43 percent) and 12 months (22 percent) hasn’t increased at all and falls short of the Healthy People goals (50 percent and 25 percent).
When you consider the medical benefits of breastfeeding, such as passing antibodies from mother to baby to protect the baby from illness, breastfeeding becomes more than a lifestyle issue. It’s a health issue.
Studies suggest that breastfeeding can help prevent allergies, stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes, dental caries, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and more. One report, published in April in the journal Pediatrics, even claimed that the lives of nearly 900 babies could be saved each year if 90 percent of U.S. women breastfed their newborns for the first 6 months.
Cincinnati Children’s promotes breastfeeding as the optimal nutrition for infants. We encourage new moms to breastfeed for as long as they can for the baby’s first 12 months. And we offer extensive support — inpatient and outpatient — through our Center for Breastfeeding Medicine. For babies in the NICU, we help moms pump and freeze their milk, saving it for when their babies are able to eat. We think breastfeeding is that important.
It’s great that the vast majority of U.S. mothers begin their children’s lives with breastfeeding. But why don’t more continue until the child’s first birthday? One reason could be that it’s not easy for moms who go back to work. Maybe there’s not enough time or a suitable place to pump breast milk during the workday.
But here’s more good news: The new health care reform law may change that. Details aren’t final, but part of the law would require employers to provide breaks and private space for mothers to pump breast milk at work.
Cincinnati Children’s supports this change as we continue doing our part to increase the number of breastfed babies in America.