WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. surgeon general said a public education campaign aims to raise awareness among African-American women on the importance of breastfeeding.
Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, surgeon general, said breastfeeding offers mothers and their babies a healthy start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly 80 percent of all U.S. women -- regardless of status, race or income -- start out breastfeeding.
However, among African-American women, the breastfeeding rate was almost 55 percent -- up from just 35 percent in the 1970s. Although these rates improved, breastfeeding rates among African-American women remain lower than the rates of other ethnicities in the United States, particularly among those living in the South.
This gap may indicate African-American mothers face barriers to meeting breastfeeding goals and need additional support to start and continue breastfeeding.
The It's Only Natural campaign was specifically designed to provide materials that reflect the experience of African-American moms, Benjamin said.
"One of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself is to breastfeed," Benjamin said. "By raising awareness, the success rate among mothers who want to breastfeed can be greatly improved through active support from their families, their friends and the community."