Breastfeeding Stats for the USA! Bleak or Better Than You Thought?

National Breastfeeding Month is a great time to examine some of the statistics around breastfeeding in the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control has recently shared some current breastfeeding information that was collected as part of the U.S. National Immunization Survey.  This survey provides current national, state, and selected urban-area estimates of vaccination coverage rates for U.S. children ages 19 to 35 months. Since July 2001, breastfeeding questions have been asked on the NIS to assess the population's breastfeeding practices at the same time. The CDC also is responsible for The Breastfeeding Report Card, but this report is now published every two years and the last one was was released in 2014. The most current data the CDC reports on is for children born in 2013, as they are tracking information as the children age.

Some interesting statistics for children born in the USA in 2013:

81% of children were breastfed at some point.

Screenshot 2016-08-08 21.53.10.png

52% of children were still breastfeeding in any way (supplemented, or exclusive) at six months. (Healthy People 2020 targeted rate of 60.6%.)

31% of children were still breastfed in any way (supplemented, or exclusive) at 12 months.  (Healthy People 2020 targeted rate of 34.1%.)

44% of children were exclusively breastfed at three months.

22% of children were exlusively breastfed at six months.

Screenshot 2016-08-08 21.56.05.pngCollege educated parents were most likely to breastfeed their children at any point and were more likely to continue to breastfeed and exclusively breastfeed for a longer period of time.

Older parents who gave birth were more likely to breastfeed at any point and to exclusively breastfeed and breastfeed longer.

Non-Hispanic Black parents were least likely to breastfeed at all, to continue breastfeeding and to exclusively breastfeed.

Mississippi parents were least likely to breastfeed at any point, with only 52% of babies ever breastfed.

94% of babies born in Utah were most likely to be breastfeed at any point by their parent.

39% of babies born in Montana were likely to be exclusively breastfed at six months - the highest in the nation.

The rates of any breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding in the USA have shown a slow but steady increase since 2003 .

You can slice and dice the data yourself!

The CDC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity's Data, Trends and Maps online tool allows you to search for and view indications related to nutrition, physical activty and obesity.  You can specify breastfeeding along with various parameters to see how states compare to each other and the entire nation as a whole.  It is interesting to manipulate the parameters and look at the big picture of all the states compared to each other.  Try it out here.

What does ACOG say?

In a February 2016 Committee Opinion "Optimizing Support for Breastfeeding as Part of Obstetric Practice" - The Amercian College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that "the offices of obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should be a resource for breastfeeding women through the infant’s first year of life, and for those who continue beyond the first year." Obstetric Health Care Providers receive minimal instruction around breastfeeding, common problems and breastfeeding support which makes it difficult to provide appropriate care around breastfeeding issues and concerns for the parents they serve.

ACOG offers a Breastfeeding Toolkit for their members, including this infographic below. I encourage you to check out their resources here and tell me what you think


Are you surprised at any of the statistics reported in the most recent survey results reported by the CDC? Do you think that the families in your classes would be surprised?  Do most of your families plan to breastfeed, and indicate that in your classes?  What barriers come up for them after the births that prevent some from successfully breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and up to a year or beyond as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians?  How can childbirth educators and other birth professionals contribute to solving problems that families may face that interfere with their breastfeeding goals and current recommendations?

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