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CDC: Number of women who breastfeed continues to rise

Although more than 8 out of 10 babies in the United States are breastfed for some period of time, researchers say more should be done to encourage breastfeeding.

By Stephen Feller
CDC: Number of women who breastfeed continues to rise
Rates of women who breastfeed their children from birth have continued a multi-year increase, CDC researchers report, but the number of babies continuing to be breastfed at six- and 12-months-old remains short of goals in more than half of states. Photo by FamVeld/Shutterstock

ATLANTA, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The rate of women who breastfeed their babies for some period of time after birth inched up in the latest report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continuing a multiyear trend.

More than 8 of 10 babies born in the United States are breastfed from birth, though researchers say just over half are still breastfeeding when they are six months old -- less than the goal set by the CDC, according to the just-published 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card.

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The CDC reports 81.1 percent of mothers breastfed their children from birth in 2013, an increase from the last report, which showed 79 percent of mothers did so in 2011. Additionally, more than half of mothers -- 51.8 percent -- were still breastfeeding at six months and 30.7 percent were breastfeeding when their children were 12 months old.

With most mothers breastfeeding for some period of time, CDC researchers report the nation is well on its way to a goal of 81.9 percent of newborns being breastfed -- 29 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico have met the goal -- but progress still must be made. Among individual states, 12 met the six-month goal of 60.6 percent of women and 19 states met the 34.1 percent goal of 12 months of breastfeeding.

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"We are pleased by the large number of mothers who start out breastfeeding their infants," Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said in a press release. "Mothers can better achieve their breastfeeding goals with active support from their families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders, employers and policymakers."

Challenges to breastfeeding may show up in the hospital, where women may not be properly encouraged, as well as at home and after a return to work, the researchers write.

Recommending greater support to encourage breastfeeding, the researchers suggest increased education programs, better maternity care practices in hospitals, peer and professional support for mothers and adequate space and equipment for breastfeeding at offices and childcare centers.

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