Updated: Oct 2, 2022
As expectant mothers approach their due date, their prenatal providers will likely bring up the subject of breastfeeding. Although many new mothers have concerns regarding this aspect of early childhood, they may be hesitant to discuss their questions or worries. In this article, we will be exploring breastfeeding facts that may help guide new mothers.
What Are Current Breastfeeding Recommendations?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary food is recommended for children up to two years of age or older.
What Percentage of Women Breastfeed?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared information from the National Immunization Survey of 2020 – 2021. The report revealed that 83.2% of infants in the United States are ever breastfed. By six months of age, only 55.8% are still being breastfed. At one year of age, the number of babies who are breastfed drops to 35.9%.
It is important to note that number of babies who are exclusively breastfed is significantly lower, with rates of 45.3% and 24.9% exclusively breastfed at three and six months, respectively.
Why Do Mothers Stop Breastfeeding?
New mothers report several reasons for discontinuing breastfeeding early. Many new mothers return to work, and unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave can limit the ability to breastfeed. Additionally, some mothers report issues with lactation and latching along with concerns regarding infant nutrition and weight gain. In some cases, new mothers may stop breastfeeding due to concern regarding medication transmission via breastmilk. Others cite cultural norms and a lack of family support as reasons that breastfeeding was discontinued.
What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can have significant health benefits. Infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of asthma, gastrointestinal infections, and type 1 diabetes. Mothers also may benefit, as breastfeeding can lower a mother’s risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
How Should I Prepare for Breastfeeding?
Many clinics and maternity centers have breastfeeding classes for expectant mothers. This is a great way to ease concerns, ask questions and connect with other pregnant mothers. Additionally, women should discuss their concerns with their prenatal provider. Your obstetrician may be aware of additional community-based resources. Some women choose to connect with a lactation consultant, and your physician may be able to provide a referral. Your lactation consultant may be able to recommend equipment (breast pumps, etc.) that may be beneficial to have prior to giving birth. For first time mothers, it may be helpful to share with other new moms who have recently navigated breastfeeding for the first time. They may be able to provide advice and recommendations.
It is normal for new mothers to have questions or concerns regarding breastfeeding. Breastfeeding classes are often helpful in alleviating an expectant mother’s concerns. Additional resources include lactation consultants and other mothers who have breastfed their infants. Breastfeeding can have significant health benefits for both mother and baby, and pregnant women should be encouraged to discuss breastfeeding questions and concerns with their prenatal provider.
Do you have advice for expectant mothers who are planning to breastfeed? What made your experience easier? What were some challenges that you experienced? We would love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below.