Breast-feeding frequency, duration increased

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Breast-feeding is on the rise across America according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The proportion of mothers breast-feeding their infants jumped from 70.3 percent to 74.6 percent from 2000 to 2008 and the proportion of mothers who continued to breast-feed after 6 months jumped from 34.5 percent to 44.4 percent.

And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, this is a very good thing. The AAP recommends breast-feeding exclusively for babies up to 6 months of age and then a combination of solid foods and breast-feeding from 6 months to one year. The academy says that breast-feeding reduces the risk of serious colds, respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome, type 1 diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal tract infections and many other health problems.

But the CDC report also found that African-Americans were less likely to breast-feed their babies. And the authors of the report believe this needs to be looked at more closely. Although the gap between black and white breast-feeding initiation narrowed, black infants still had the lowest prevalence of breast-feeding initiation and duration, highlighting the need for targeted interventions in this population to promote and support breast-feeding.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross echoes this sentiment: These data are certainly impressive if breast-feeding is so beneficial. But it is very clear that African-Americans are not getting the message as clearly as other races, and this needs to be addressed more effectively.

And ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava adds: While breast-feeding has definite benefits for both mother and baby, let's not forget that feeding with appropriate formulas is a viable and healthful option. Not all new mothers want or are able to breast-feed, and they should not be made to feel inadequate or that they are not taking good care of their infants.