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More U.S. Mothers Are Breastfeeding but Many Stop Too Soon, Says CDC

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that more U.S. mothers are breastfeeding, but that many stop nursing earlier than they should.

Researchers found that of the babies born in 2015, 83.2 percent were breastfeeding after birth, 57.6 percent continued to nurse after 6 months and 35.9 percent were still going at 12 months. The latter two statistics were an increase from 2014.

While that is an improvement, the CDC says that many mothers stop nursing too soon.

“Despite the recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for about the first 6 months, less than 50 percent of infants were exclusively breastfed through 3 months and about 25 percent were exclusively breastfed through 6 months,” the report states.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusively breastfeeding through the first six months of a baby’s life, and then continuing to nurse while introducing foods through to the 12 month mark.

And after past increases in the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding through months 3 and 6, there was “virtually” no change between 2014 and 2015.

The CDC said that the lack of support for U.S. mothers is likely why they stop breastfeeding.

“These rates suggest that mothers may not be getting the support they need from health care providers, family members, and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals,” they said.

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The CDC said that in 2018, just 49 percent of employers provide a separate, onsite location for mothers to breastfeed or pump. The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion hopes to increase that number as part of their Healthy People 2020 initiative.

“All sectors of society (family and friends, hospitals, health care offices and clinics, childcare facilities, community-based organizations and workplaces) can play a role in improving the health of families by supporting breastfeeding,” the CDC said. “To reach their breastfeeding goals, mothers need continuity of care, which is achieved by consistent, collaborative, and high-quality breastfeeding services and support.”

Breastfeeding can also be difficult for many women who encounter health problems, latching issues or allergies when trying to nurse naturally. Overall, while breastmilk has many health benefits for mothers and babies, a fed baby is best.

Dr. Ruth Petersen, the director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said that this data still shows an improvement.

“We are pleased that most US babies start out breastfeeding and over half are still breastfeeding at 6 months of age,” she said in a press release. “The more we support breastfeeding mothers, the more likely they will be able to reach their breastfeeding goals.”

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