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California gets an "A" on its breastfeeding report card

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On July 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual breastfeeding report card. It found that breastfeeding rates continue to rise and that California is near the top of the class in the subject. The report notes that currently more than three of four (77%) mothers try to breastfeed their newborns.

The stats for California are:

  • 91.6% of moms have at least tried breastfeeding
  • 71.3% of moms are breastfeeding at six months
  • 45.3% of moms are breastfeeding at 12 months
  • 56.8% of moms exclusively breastfeed for three months
  • 27.4% of moms exclusively breastfeed for six months

Those percentages are just slightly below the nation’s top breastfeeding state, Iowa. Mississippi scored the lowest; however, half the moms in the state at least attempted to breast feed; however, only 19.7% were breastfeeding at six months. Overall, the stats show an improvement from a decade earlier; at that time, the national average was 71%. The percentage still breastfeeding a year later rose to 27% from 16% in 2000.

The CDC derived the data from a national telephone survey of more than 8,000 parents and caretakers of small children. The agency notes that improving the health of mothers and their children is a primary goal of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding, with its many known benefits for infants, children, and mothers, are key strategies to accomplish this goal.

The CDC notes that there are many ways that communities can support mothers and babies that breastfeed, and everyone plays a role. The CDC Breastfeeding Report Card brings together state-by-state information to help tell the story of breastfeeding practices and supports in states. It compiles many types of data so that public health practitioners in states can monitor progress, celebrate successes, and identify opportunities to inform and work with health professionals, employers, business owners, and community members.

The agency notes that the early post-partum period is a critical time for establishing and supporting breastfeeding. This year, there are two new indicators of the quality of maternity care from the Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey. These indicators are related to immediate and continued contact between mother and baby during the hospital stay: skin-to-skin contact within one hour after birth and rooming-in together throughout the stay. While both skin-to-skin contact and rooming-in improve breastfeeding rates by helping mothers establish breastfeeding early and learn infant feeding cues, these practices can also benefit mothers and infants who are not breastfeeding.

National progress has been made in keeping mothers and babies together throughout the hospital and birth center stay: from 2007 to 2011 the percentage of facilities with at least 90% of infants receiving skin-to-skin contact after vaginal birth increased from 40.8% to 54.4%, and the percentage of facilities with at least 90% of mothers and babies staying together in the same room throughout the stay increased from 30.8% to 37.1%. In 2011, states in the West had a majority of facilities with most infants rooming-in, while many states in the Midwest and South had less than one-quarter of facilities reporting most infants were rooming-in with their mothers.