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Public Opinion on Breastfeeding in the US

December 2016

For decades, research has shown the benefits of breastfeeding to mother, infant, community, and environment.  Whether these benefits are protection from illness such as respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes, leukemia, lymphomas, urinary tract infections, or overweight and obesity, public knowledge of breastfeeding effects has increased each year.  And the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with many national and international health organizations, continues to recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and with the introduction of complementary foods, continued breastfeeding for at least 12 months.

Confused 

However, at the 2012 data collection by the Centers for Disease Control, only 22% of American women were meeting this goal.

As you learn more about lactation through your Step 2 Education journey, the reasons contributing to this low number become more evident. Such a great impact is the social perception about breast milk, breastfeeding, and formula within the mother's environment of support. A new study, published in the December issue of Birth, reveal the results of a nationwide online survey with 6700 respondents. Their findings, although a bit distressing, give us new insight into the mothers and families we work with at birthing facilities in the US.

Here are just a few of the findings:

24% believe that formula increases the risk of illness
45% say breast milk is better than formula
12% believe that breastfeeding protects infants from becoming overweight/obese
46% say breast milk protects against ear infections
36% say breast milk protects against diarrhea
I would say we still have a lot of work to do, educating mothers-to-be and families about just how important breastfeeding is to their infant's health and well being. What can YOU do in your facility to assist with this education? Please share here in this forum your ideas and success stories!

Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA
Professional Development Educator, Step2Education International

 

References:

Nelson, J.M., Li, R., Rerrine, C.G., and Scanlon, K.S.  2016.  Public opinions about infant feeding in the United States.  Birth, 43(4), 313-319.

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