The 2012 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card features good and bad news for  babies all over the county. In good news, moms who initiate breastfeeding at all increased by 2 percentage points over last year’s scores, bringing the number of babies ever breastfed in the USA up to 76.9%. This improvement not only represents the largest ever annual increase over the last decade, but also shows that the USA is inching ever closer to the 2020 Healthy People goal of 81.9% breastfed babies. Other good news on this year’s report card shows that hospitals and birth centers have vastly improved when it comes to supporting breastfeeding. On a scale of 0–100, with a higher score indicating better breastfeeding practices, scores have increased from 65 to 70, from 2009 to 2011 respectfully. Keep reading to see if your state scored high on breastfeeding success and to see some improvements that still need to be made.

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Image by Flickr User christyscherrer

The Good News: Some States are Supporting Breastfeeding

Health organizations recommended that ALL babies still be breastfed at six months. Healthy People 2020 has a goal of seeing 60.6% of all babies across the country still breastfeeding at six months. Right now the national average for six month old breastfed babies is just 47.2%, so as a country, we’re a ways off from that goal. However, some states have amazingly already met this goal, including Oregon (68.1%); Utah (64.4%); and Vermont (61.9%) – way to go states! The next ten states in line to meet this goal include the following:

  1. New Hampshire – 60.0%
  2. Idaho – 58.9%
  3. South Dakota – 57.1%
  4. Colorado – 56.9%
  5. Massachusetts – 56.8%
  6. California – 56.1%
  7. New Mexico – 54.7%
  8. Washington – 54.5%
  9. Alaska – 54.6%
  10. Minnesota – 53.8%

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The Bad News: Improvements are Still Needed

Not all the news is good news on this year’s report card. The United States needs to work on the following problem areas:

  • Country wide, breastfeeding at 6 months increased from 44.3% to 47.2%, but obviously that means fewer than 50% of all babies are breastfed at six months.
  • Healthy People 2020 would like to see 34.1% of all babies across the country still breastfeeding at one year. Right now the average is 25.5% (really low). Just 7 states individuality met this goal including Oregon (48.7%); Vermont (40.6%); Utah (37.6%); Idaho (35.4%); New Hampshire (35.1%); Massachusetts (34.5%); and Washington (34.1%).
  • On average, 24.6% of all babies born in the USA get formula before 2 days of age, though some states have much larger issues with this. For example, in New Jersey 35.5% of all newborns receive formula while in Georgia 34.4% of babies get formula.
  • In 2008 fewer than 2% of babies were born in Baby Friendly facilities. Over the last 4 years that number has more than tripled to 6%. Obviously while this is a nice jump, it also shows that many, many mamas and babies are likely still lacking the support they need to get breastfeeding off to a good start.
  • Very few state child care regulations support onsite breastfeeding – meaning the state supports (or doesn’t) arrangements for mothers to feed their child on-site at day care centers. Just six states support on-site breastfeeding, including Arizona, California, Delaware, Mississippi, North Carolina and Vermont.

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Image by Flickr User Rachel Coleman Finch

The Depressing News: Moms Want to Breastfeed but Lack Support

The CDC annual breastfeeding report card makes one thing very clear – women in the USA really want to breastfeed. Seriously, as this report card shows, a full 74.6% of all mothers in the United States try to breastfeed their baby, yet by 6 months, just 44.3% of all moms are still breastfeeding. When almost half of all breastfeeding moms quit before the six month mark, that tells me that we’re failing U.S. moms and babies. There aren’t enough health reasons on the planet to explain away why so many moms quit breastfeeding, which means you can’t blame low breastfeeding rates on mother or baby health. Other issues are at play, such as inadequate breastfeeding support, poor maternity leave laws and a total lack of workplace policy and public law surrounding breastfeeding. If you want to help improve breastfeeding rates in this country, help other mamas out when they need it – and be nice not judgmental. Encourage your own hospital or local birth center to provide the proper support for breastfeeding women (pdf).

Most importantly, if you’re a new mama, don’t give up on breastfeeding even though it can be hard to get help. You do have resources available to you, as shown below…

+ Breastfeeding Report Card –– United States, 2012 (pdf)

Lead image by Flickr User Raphael Goetter