When I teach breastfeeding classes I always mention that in recent years the rate of breastfeeding initiation - giving breastfeeding a try - has been hovering around 70% in the U.S.
So, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I thought I'd write about the relationship of breastfeeding to race, income, education, maternal age, and region.
Since Dr. King died in 1968 there has been tremendous progress the rate of breastfeeding in the U.S. In 1970, the rate of breastfeeding initiation was only 25%.
Despite this progress, some significant differences among subgroups of women remain. According to the CDC, in 2005, the rates of mothers "ever breastfeeding," varied by:
Race. Rates of breastfeeding were 81% for Asian Americans, 79% for Hispanics/Latinas, 75% for Whites, 67% for Native Americans, and 59% for African Americans.
Mothers' age. 50% of women under 20 breastfed, 68% of women between 20 and 29 breastfed, and 77% of women 30 and over breastfed.
Education. 63% of women with less than a high school diploma breastfed, while 84% of college graduates breastfed.
Income. Women living below the federal poverty line breastfed at the rate of 63%, and women living at 350% of the poverty level breastfed at the rate of 82%.
Geography. The CDC map to the right, "Percentage of Children Ever Breastfed by State, 2005," shows which regions had the highest and lowest rates of breastfeeding.
Some good news: Between 1992 and 2002 the rate of breastfeeding among African American women, WIC participants, and mothers younger than 20 years showed some of the fastest gains. The increase for African American women was the highest, increasing almost 26% over ten years.
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