The Report Card provides statistics on breastfeeding rates immediately after birth (referred to as initiation), at six months, at 12 months, as well as rates of exclusive breastfeeding (feeding only breastmilk) at three months and six months. The data shows rates for the U.S as a whole and is also broken down by state.
Compared to last year's results, breastfeeding at six months has increased 1.3 percent, breastfeeding at one year has increased 1.4 percent, exclusive breastfeeding through six months has increased 2 percent, and exclusive breastfeeding through one year has increased 1.5 percent. The only decrease is the rate of breastfeeding initiation, which dropped .4 percent, from 75 percent to 74.6 percent.
The categories examined by the Breastfeeding Report Card are based on objectives outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Healthy People report. The document lists a number of objectives for improving the health of Americans, establishes benchmarks and targets for each, and tracks progress toward these goals.
The chart below shows the full details of how breastfeeding rates have changed in the past year and where we are relative to the Healthy People 2020 targets.
There are three additional Healthy People 2020 breastfeeding objectives that were measured for the first time in 2011: the percentage of workplaces offering lactation support programs, the amount of infants who receive formula in the first two days of life, and the number of babies born at hospitals with lactation support. The chart below indicates the benchmarks set in 2011 for each category, and the goals set by Healthy People 2020.
Since the release of the first CDC Breastfeeding Report Card in 2007, there have been steady improvements in several categories, but especially in three month and six month exclusive breastfeeding rates. These increased more than 5 and 4 percent, respectively. All the rates have risen with the rate of initiation by .8 percent, breastfeeding at six months by 2.8 percent, and breastfeeding at one year by 2.9 percent.
The country as a whole still has some progress to make before reaching the 2020 targets for breastfeeding initiation, but some states have already blown past this goal. Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming have all topped 81.9 percent. In fact, Vermont has reached the Healthy People Target 2020 in all five categories.
I'm very encouraged by the improvements from 2010 to 2011. According to the 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card, concentration on these five objectives will help lead to the growth of breastfeeding rates in the U.S.
- Birth facility support. Less than 5 percent of hospitals in the United States are Baby-Friendly. A Baby-Friendly hospital is one that provides an optimal level of care for lactation based on the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals. Some states still don't have a single Baby-Friendly facility, and support is crucial in the first days of breastfeeding.
- Mother-to mother support. Groups like La Leche League are composed of trained and accredited volunteer mothers who provide support to pregnant women and breastfeeding moms.
- Professional support. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants help moms and babies, create and help administer lactation programs, and provide education to other health officials about breastfeeding.
- Infrastructure. State health department officials are essential to giving appropriate consideration for breastfeeding in public programs and services. "The number of state health department full-time equivalents dedicated to the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding are needed to develop, implement, monitor, and maintain breastfeeding interventions," according to the CDC.
- Support in child care settings. According to the report, two-thirds of infants are routinely cared for by someone other than a parent. It's important for these third parties to provide education and support to breastfeeding moms as well.