US Pharm. 2007;32(9):8.

Research has proven that breast milk is more beneficial to a newborn than formula. One of the goals of Healthy People 2010, a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative, is to increase the percentage of American women who breast-feed their infants through ages 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months to 75%, 50%, and 25%, respectively, by the year 2010.

A recent article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) revealed findings from a CDC analysis of data from the National Immunization Survey. The survey findings indicated that more women initiated breast-feeding (through age 3 months) in 2004 (73.8%) than in 2000 (70.9%), nearly reaching the national objective of 75%. Likewise, breast-feeding rates through ages 6 months and 12 months were 41.5% and 20.9%, respectively, in 2004, compared with 34.2% and 15.7%, respectively, in 2000.

In 2007, the Healthy People 2010 objectives were updated to include goals for exclusive breast-feeding: to increase the percentage of mothers who exclusively breast-feed their infants through age 3 months to 60% and through age 6 months to 25%. Exclusive breast-feeding is defined as feeding an infant only breast milk and no other liquids or solids, except for drops or syrups containing vitamins or medicines. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other health organizations recommend that mothers exclusively breast-feed their infants for the first six months of life, with continuation of breast-feeding through age 12 months and beyond while other foods are introduced.

According to the MMWR report, rates for exclusive breast-feeding were far below the national objectives. Among infants born in 2004, rates for exclusive breast-feeding through ages 3 months and 6 months were 30.5% and 11.3%, respectively.

Disparities were observed in rates of exclusive breast-feeding among infants born in 2004. Rates of exclusive breast-feeding through age 3 months were lowest among black infants (19.8%) and infants of mothers younger than 20 (16.8%). Rates were also low among infants of mothers who had a high school education or less (22.9% and 23.9%, respectively), were unmarried (18.8%), resided in rural areas (23.9%), and were poor (23.9%).

According to the authors of the MMWR report, "Lower rates of breast-feeding among black women have been attributed to several factors, such as economic pressures to return to work environments that do not support breast-feeding, lack of breast-feeding education and supportive social networks, aggressive marketing by formula manufacturers, and cultural environments that do not value breast-feeding or promote positive images of breast-feeding women."

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