Kidsdata.org provides data on the number and percentage of newborns who breastfeed during their hospitalization after birth. The data include Exclusive Breastfeeding (those who breastfeed only) and Any Breastfeeding (those who breastfeed exclusively and those who breastfeed and receive formula). This indicator also is available by race/ethnicity, as a number and a percentage. Note that 2010 and 2011 data should not be compared with earlier years due to a change in data collection methods.
Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infant health, growth, and development (1). Infants who are breastfed receive protection from serious health conditions, including respiratory, ear, and gastrointestinal tract infections, allergies, diabetes, obesity, and cancer (1). Studies indicate that breastfeeding can reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), when compared to formula feeding (1). Breastfeeding also offers multiple health advantages to mothers, such as reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (1). Increasing the proportion of children who are breastfed for at least the first year of life -- as well as the percentage who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months -- are important public health goals (1).
Not all women should breastfeed, however. Breastfeeding is not recommended for women who use certain prescription drugs, test positive for HIV, or have active, untreated tuberculosis (1).
California has a statewide goal to make breastfeeding the normal method of infant feeding for at least the first year of life (2). Healthy People 2020, an initiative of the U.S. government that sets national public health goals, set breastfeeding objectives for 46% of infants to be exclusively breastfed through three months old, 26% exclusively breastfed through six months old, and 34% breastfed (along with complementary foods) at one year old (3).
For more information on breastfeeding, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-841. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/02/22/peds.2011-3552.full.pdf+html
2. California Department of Health Services: Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Branch. (2010). Breastfeeding fact sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/breastfeeding/Pages/default.aspx
3. HealthyPeople.gov. (2011). Maternal, infant, and child health: Infant care. Retrieved from: http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/objectiveslist.aspx?topicId=26
For children to receive the maximum health benefits of breastfeeding, their mothers need information about these benefits and motivation and support from the start to maintain breastfeeding through infancy. New mothers are most likely to breastfeed exclusively when hospitals develop a breastfeeding policy and follow set protocols, such as: education for mothers and health care providers, facilitating mother-baby contact, and avoidance of items that discourage breastfeeding, e.g., formula and pacifiers (1). State law gives mothers the right to breastfeed in public (2). With some exceptions, employers also are required by California and federal law to provide breastfeeding employees with a private space and time to pump breast milk (3). Of course, employers must be aware of and follow these laws for lactating women to receive the protection they offer. In addition, lack of insurance coverage for lactation consultants or breast pumps can cause mothers to discontinue breastfeeding.
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence breastfeeding include:
- Adopting and implementing a breastfeeding policy at each hospital that incorporates the recommended 10-step protocol recommended by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and other leading international health organizations (1); this could include achieving designation as a “Baby Friendly Hospital,” as determined by the UNICEF/World Health Organization protocol (4)
- Enforcing state laws permitting breastfeeding in public places and facilitating pumping breast milk in the workplace (2, 3)
- Requiring health insurers to provide coverage for lactation education and electric breast pumps (5)
For more policy ideas and research about breastfeeding, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit the US Breastfeeding Committee, Womenshealth.gov, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sources for this narrative:
of Breastfeeding Medicine
(2010). Clinical protocol #7: Model breastfeeding policy. Breastfeeding
Medicine, 5(4), 173-177.
2. California Civil Code sec. 43.3.
3. California Labor Code secs. 1030-1033; Section 4207 of the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-148) [Federal
Health Reform], amending Section 7 of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act.
4. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/eng/index.html
5. United States Breastfeeding Committee. (2008). Achieving exclusive breastfeeding in the United States. Retrieved from: http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/LinkClick.aspx?link=Publications%2fBarriers-EBF-2008-USBC.pdf&tabid=70&mid=388
In 2011, about 61% of California infants were exclusively breastfed in the hospital after birth, up from 57% in 2010. At the county level, figures ranged from 23% to 89% in 2011. Statewide, white infants continue to have the highest percentages of exclusive breastfeeding (76% in 2011) compared to infants of other racial/ethnic groups.