A Case for Breastfeeding in the United States


Before my first child was born, I planned to breastfeed. The decision was not based on economics, but rather through the information in all of the pregnancy and parenting books that I had purchased from book stores. Also, learning of the message of La Leche League while in college, it was best for the baby. After 22 hours of labor, she finally arrived. I was transferred into a hospital room and naturally, I fell asleep. Labor is intense, especially when you choose natural childbirth. When I arrived at the hospital’s emergency room, I wasn’t dilated enough to begin active labor. So, I was told to walk around, in order that my body becomes fully prepared for the delivery process.

Let me just say that walking around the hospital hallways while experiencing early labor pains, contractions, was pure torture. My husband was at work and so my mother was designated driver to get me to the hospital. She seemed more nervous and anxious than me, which was surprising. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been through it at least once before. After hours and hours of walking, and oh, yes the ice chips[that was all expectant mothers were permitted to consume once pains began] a precious baby girl was born.

I do recall telling the nurses and my obstetrician  that I wanted to breastfeed her.  Shortly after giving birth, they whisked her away to clean her up and administer the APGAR tests, etc, as I was wheeled into my hospital room. I must have fallen asleep for a bit. When I woke up, I became concerned, because no one had brought her to me in hours. I knew that she must have been crying. I called the nurse’s station and asked about my daughter. The nurse said that they had been feeding her formula, Enfamil. I hit the floor, and right away my baby was brought into my room to feed and sleep at my bedside. Thus began the bonding and rooting, preparing and offering my breast milk to her. The rest is beautiful. Ah, the contentment of a baby feeding from a mother’s breast. Oh, and when those little tiny hands begin to caress the breast while feeding! There is nothing more satisfying. Pure love and an unbreakable bond!

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The first form of nutrition a mother’s breast produces is called colostrum. Colostrum[pre-milk] is the absolute best and most potent form of nutrition a baby can receive from his or her mother. It is filled with nutrients and antibodies that work as early immune system protection for babies. Breastfeeding prepares babies for the non-sterile environments outside of the womb, and helps shield them from colds, infections, and also feeds the brain’s development.

Health care provider in foreground and breastfeeding mother in background

In the United States, most infants (83.2%) start out breastfeeding, but many stop earlier than recommended, according to the 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For most infants, good nutrition starts with breastfeeding exclusively for about the first 6 months of life, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although nearly 6 in 10 (57.6 %) babies are still breastfeeding at 6 months of age, only 1 in 4 (24.9%) are breastfeeding exclusively.

I breastfed my daughter for about 11 months, or until she seemed to desire more solid foods. Also, after a while, when babies begin to teethe, with more and more teeth coming in,  they occasionally bite or gnaw at the breast. Ouch!! But, fortunately, they soon learn not to do that, for that is their food source as well as a comfort zone.

Breastfeeding is now becoming more popular among mothers and that is a great thing. Packaged formula is filled with additives, artificial ingredients and although they provide nutrition for babies, the breast is all natural and irreplaceable. Women seldom have to worry that they will not produce enough milk for baby. As a matter of fact, it feels like the opposite and there is too much. Hence, the occasional leakages. But, we can pump and store milk these days to accommodate mothers who must return to work outside the home, and babies can feed from bottles-filled with natural breast milk.

Breastfeeding provides benefits for babies and mothers

Infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding can also help lower a mother’s risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[CDC] just released its 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card and,….

Highlights from the 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card show:

  • Among infants born in 2015, 4 out of 5 (83.2 percent) started out breastfeeding. This high percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding shows that most mothers want to breastfeed and are trying to do so.
  • Almost half (46.9 percent) were exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months.
  • Only one-third (35.9 percent) of infants were breastfeeding at 12 months.
  • Almost half (49 percent) of employers provide worksite lactation support programs.
  • Over 1 in 4 babies are born in facilities that provide recommended maternity care practices for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.

CDC researchers analyzed data on breastfeeding practices and support from 50 states, the District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, and for the first time, the Breastfeeding Report Card includes data for Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

CDC’s recommendations for support to mothers include encouraging hospitals and health care staff to implement practices that support breastfeeding, including helping patients identify covered benefits, such as breast pumps and access to lactation consultants, to help support the mothers’ transition back to home, to school, and/or to work.pregnant-belly-maternal-mother-maternity-160624.jpeg

All sectors of society (family and friends, hospitals and health care settings, childcare facilities, community-based organizations, and workplaces) can play a role in improving the health of families by supporting breastfeeding. Mothers need accommodations at work with continuity of care through consistent, collaborative and high-quality breastfeeding services. They need the support from their doctors, lactation consultants and counselors, and peer counselors. When my first child was born, my hospital and certainly many others expected and advocated for ready-made formula for infants and babies. Times have changed, thankfully, and Americans are choosing healthier, more natural and organic foods in their daily diet. As parents, present or expectant, what could be more healthy, natural and organic than breast milk!

For more information on CDC’s work on nutrition and breastfeeding, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding.

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