Breastfeeding and Racial/Ethnic Differences

How breastfeeding differs by race

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding numbers remain higher in minority populations, while significant increases in breastfeeding rates at six months and 12 months are positive. The study, published in the journal Morbidity & Mortality, used data collected by the National Immunization Survey (NIS) in 2000 and 2008.

Breastfeeding rates among black mothers remain lower than white and Hispanic mothers. Overall breastfeeding attempts were about 70% in 2000. That number rose to nearly 75% by 2008. Among mothers who breastfed in 2000, 35% breastfed for six months and 16% breastfed for 12 months. By 2008, those percentages had increased to nearly 45% at six months and nearly 24% at 12 months.

When race was taken into consideration, there was a significant difference among breastfeeding rates. Only 47% of blacks, 72% of white, and 78% of Hispanics breastfed in 2000. In 2008, those numbers increased to 59% of blacks, 75% of white, and 80% of Hispanics. While numbers are increasing, the results are not statistically significant overall and the gap between ethnicities remains nearly constant.

What did the study show?

Two important outcomes were noted in the study. Black mothers are less likely to breastfeed than white and Hispanic mothers. This signals a need for continued education and the focus on the black population when it comes to breastfeeding education. There was also a breastfeeding rate of less than 50% at six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests breastfeeding exclusively for six months and concurrently with food introduction from months six to 12. While the majority of mothers start out breastfeeding, there is a significant drop in breastfeeding from birth to six months, 36% in 2000, and 30% in 2008. Primary care physicians and pediatricians need to focus educational efforts on the importance of continued breastfeeding with education and breastfeeding support.

Researchers noted that information for the National Immunization Survey was collected when infants were 19 to 35 months old. This means data represented infant births and care from 2002 to 2011. Data used for the year 2000 was actually collected on infants born between 2002 and 2003.

Read More:
Breastfeeding Guide
Breastfeeding Basics for Mom

Best Breastfeeding Diet

Source: Jessica A. Allen, MPH, Ruowei Li, Ph.D., Kelley S. Scanlon, Ph.D., Cria G. Perrine, Ph.D., Jian Chen, MS, Erika Odom, Ph.D., Carla Black, Ph.D. Progress in Increasing Breastfeeding and Reducing Racial/Ethnic Differences. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. 2013;62(5):77-80. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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