Breast-feeding appears to be slowly gaining popularity in the United States — as well as gaining acceptance.
“I think more women are attempting to breast-feed for a number of reasons,” Dr. Sheila Chhutani, an OB-GYN from Texas, told Healthline.
“We are talking about it more not only in the community, but watching celebrities on social media breast-feed and have conversations about it,” she explained. “[And] hospitals are doing more to help women start the process.”
Chhutani also said that more mothers are learning about the health benefits.
In addition, some may be trying it with their babies, even though they didn’t when their older children were infants.
Breast-feeding report card
Chhutani’s thoughts align with the 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report found that more than 8 in 10 mothers — 81 percent — attempt to breast-feed their babies from birth. Many stop before the recommended six months. But almost 52 percent of infants are still breastfeeding when they are 6 months old, and about 30 percent are still breast-feeding when they are 12 months.
In comparison, 79 percent of newborns were breast-feeding in 2011. During that year, 49 percent were breast-feeding at 6 months old, and 27 percent were still breast-feeding at 12 months.
A dozen states met the Healthy People 2020 breast-feeding goal for six months breast-feeding duration, while 19 states met the goal for 12 months breast-feeding duration.
More women breast-feeding
Amy Romano, a certified nurse midwife at Baby+Co., which has centers in North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, and Tennessee, explained that breastfeeding is becoming more popular because more women know about the health benefits of it.
In addition, she said, healthcare providers, government agencies, and community partners actively promote the practice.
“Through advocacy of many dedicated parents and professionals, we are doing a better job protecting and promoting the right to breast-feed in public, giving support for breast-feeding and pumping at work, and helping families pay for breast-feeding and pumping supplies,” Romano told Healthline.
She believes breast-feeding rates will continue to rise as more breast-feeding friendly policies like paid maternity leave are enacted.
“As more women breast-feed, it creates a breast-feeding culture where it is accepted and supported,” she said.
‘Breast is best’ movement
Dr. Nanette Santoro, an OB-GYN professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said the “breast is best” message is gaining more traction.
“For years, the U.S.A. has lagged behind other developed countries in breast-feeding rates. We are now more on a par with countries like Sweden, Norway, and Australia, where a majority of women breast-feed through six months,” she told Healthline.
While there’s more work to be done to support breast-feeding, Santoro said current rates are “a step in the right direction.”
“This is a big improvement,” she said.