The percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding increased from 73% among babies born in 2004 to 83% among babies born in 2014. Babies are also breastfeeding for longer; 55% of U.S. babies born in 2014 were being breastfed at 6 months, up from 42% in 2004. Despite these overall increases, racial disparities between black and white infants persist.
A recent CDC study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), describes how breastfeeding rates continue to differ between non-Hispanic (NH) black and white infants within states.
- Among infants born during 2010–2013, 64.3% of NH black infants started breastfeeding, compared to 81.5% of NH white infants, a gap of 17.2 percentage points.
- NH black infants also had significantly lower rates than NH white infants of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months and breastfeeding for 12 months.
Many factors influence a woman’s decision to start and continue breastfeeding. Some barriers disproportionately affect black women, such as:
- Returning earlier to work.
- Not receiving enough information about breastfeeding from providers.
- Lack of access to professional breastfeeding support.
The newest data from the MMWR indicate that challenges still exist. However, we are making progress. Since the release of the 2011 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, the federal government and its partners have made important progress in improving breastfeeding support for more mothers and infants across the nation.
More than 442 hospitals across the United States are designated as “Baby-Friendly” and use evidenced-based maternity care. These hospital cover approximately 860,000 births a year. Additionally, CDC has worked with 69 local health departments and community-based organizations in their efforts to provide peer and professional lactation support, specifically to African-American and underserved mothers and infants.
There is more work to be done. Although more women are breastfeeding and breastfeeding for longer, disparities remain. Addressing such challenges will require coordination and collaboration at all levels – from families, to health care providers, to communities– so that every baby gets the best start in life.
Visit CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) to learn how you can support breastfeeding:
- Get the latest data on breastfeeding rates from the National Immunization Survey (NIS).
- Learn how you can support breastfeeding.
- Use the Breastfeeding Report Cards or DNPAO’s Data Trends and Maps database to track state changes in breastfeeding and supports for breastfeeding over time.
Breastfeeding is recognized as the best source of nutrition for most infants. In observance of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, learn about our nation’s progress in promoting and supporting breastfeeding and the work that is still needed.