Breastfeeding rates are rising, but moms still need encouragement
By Laura French, B.S., R.N.
The number of mothers breastfeeding their newborn babies has risen steadily in the United States since the turn of the 21st century, an encouraging sign that today’s mothers truly understand the immediate and lifelong health benefits they provide their children by feeding them mother’s milk.
According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding rose to 83 percent in 2014, up from 73 percent in 2004. Babies are also breastfeeding for longer; 55 percent of U.S. babies born in 2014 still were being breastfed at six months, up from 42 percent 2004. Those numbers are promising, a large leap from the 20th century, when heavily-marketed infant formulas dominated the diets of babies. But they still speak to a real need to pump up the volume on the benefits of breastfeeding.
The truth is, many of the most well-intentioned mothers still struggle with the task of breastfeeding exclusively or at all, often opting (as perhaps their own mothers did) for store-bought formulas which don’t deliver anywhere near the level of benefits found naturally in breast milk. Now more than ever, those mothers need constant support – from their partners, families, doctors and each other – to initiate and continue breastfeeding for the first six months or, better yet, the first full year and beyond of their child’s life.
Benefits for Mother and Child Together
Benefits for Child
Benefits for Mother
There’s no question that breastfeeding is work. Mother is the sole feeder of the infant, on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mothers who pump their breast milk and bottle it for others to feed the baby also need to manage that task. Breastfeeding requires time and patience from the mother – and support and tolerance from the rest of the family, as well as the mother’s workplace, which should provide the time and private location for breast pumping as needed.
In the end, it’s well worth it. Breastfeeding is one of the healthiest things a mother can do for herself and her child, and our society needs to embrace its practice in the interest of population health.
Laura French, B.S., R.N., is the OBGYN Clinical Manager at Berkshire Medical Center.