Percent of Children Breastfed at Six Months of Age
Breastfeeding Saves Lives and Money
Breast milk contains essential nutrients for healthy growth and development. The benefits of breastfeeding extend through childhood and reduce the risk of infections and diseases, asthma, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome, among other conditions.
- A study reported in Pediatrics found that low breastfeeding rates cost the United States $13 billion each year in medical costs and result in more than 900 preventable deaths.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economics Research Services estimates that $3.6 billion in medical expenses could be saved each year if at least 50 percent of children were breastfed for at least six months.
Many factors are associated with a woman’s decision to breastfeed, including maternal income, race, age, education and support from social networks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that national breastfeeding rates have consistently increased since 1990, but there has been no significant improvement in reducing the racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding initiation rates, or rates of breastfeeding immediately after birth, among mothers younger than age 20 are more than 20 percent lower than mothers age 30 or older.
- In 13 states, breastfeeding initiation rates between blacks and whites differ by more than 20 percent.
State Strategies to Increase Breastfeeding
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force determined education about breastfeeding is the most effective intervention for increasing initiation rates.
- Forty-three states have enacted laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location, and 24 states have laws related to nursing mothers in the workplace.
- As of 2003, health insurance companies in Texas are required to cover post-delivery care services, including parent education, assistance and training in breastfeeding.
- California requires the Department of Public Health to develop a training course of hospital policies and recommendations that promote breastfeeding.
Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2010; World Health Organization, 2002; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.
Maternal and Child Health Overview
Breastfeeding State Laws
The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding - NCSL LegisBrief, January 2010
Investing in Healthy Babies - NCSL LegisBrief, March 2009