Breastfeeding Grades Improving: Helping Health and Cancer Risk

bigstock-Mother-breastfeeding-the-littl-18348869More than three out of four babies born in the U.S. in 2010 breastfed for any length of time, according to the 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says America’s breastfeeding grades are improving with the highest rates since they began measuring in 2001.

And that’s good news because breastfeeding offers many health benefits for babies and moms, including decreased risk for moms for both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer, and lower risk for obesity for baby. One of AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention is that mothers breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months.

From my work in breastfeeding education and promotion even just 15 years ago, I know the struggles breastfeeding advocates face in encouraging moms and dads to try breastfeeding and in making hospitals and other institutions supportive of breastfeeding. So I am pleased to see more families choose to try for at least some length of time.

There are many barriers to breastfeeding in America, as Deirdre, our VP and a mom, discussed in a previous blog. But what I find encouraging in the CDC breastfeeding report cards is that they also focus on institutional practices and policies that support breastfeeding, rather than just looking at how many families choose breastfeeding.

According to the CDC, two practices that help establish and support breastfeeding are having babies stay in the mother’s hospital room and having mom and baby experience skin-to-skin contact soon after birth. From 2007 to today, the report cards show that the percentage of hospitals and birth centers where at least 90% of babies and moms experience these practices is increasing every year.

For breastfeeding, just like making other health changes – like eating more vegetables or getting more exercise – education helps people know what the healthier choice is. But making the healthier choice accessible, affordable and easy to do is crucial for people to make those choices and then make the healthy decisions last. As more hospitals, child-care facilities and other institutions provide a supportive environment for breastfeeding, we’ll continue to see more moms choose to begin and be able to sustain breastfeeding.


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