On the Rise

Breastfeeding Shows Steady Growth Vs. Formula, According to CDC

A new CDC study is just the latest news to buoy the pro-breastfeeding camp, reports Eliza Shapiro.

A flurry of recent studies about breastfeeding are spelling more bad news for moms who switch to formula feeding less than six months after giving birth.

The latest, a study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the number of mothers choosing to breastfeed has grown steadily over the past decade.

CDC director Thomas Frieden says that’s as it should be. “Breastfeeding is good for the mother and for the infant,” he says, “and the striking news here is, hundreds of thousands more babies are being breastfed than in past years, and this increase has been seen across most racial and ethnic groups.”

While the percentage of African-American mothers who breastfeed grew significantly from 2000 to 2008—at a rate of 13 percent—black women breastfeed for the shortest duration of all racial groups, the study found. The CDC says African-American moms need more targeted support, which could be provided through the organization’s breastfeeding promotion and support programs.

An earlier study, published in December, added plenty of fuel to fire the pro-breastfeeding camp. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that fatty acids created when infants digest formula can contribute to a potentially fatal intestinal condition called necrotizing enterocolitis that can lead to early death in infants.

Another report, released in early January, found that more than 700 species of bacteria that help nourish infants exist in breast milk. The study has opened the door for further research into determining whether the bacteria present in breast milk helps infants digest milk or helps distinguish between helpful and foreign organisms.

In February 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially recommended that all mothers breastfeed exclusively for at least six months after giving birth.

Even the Obama administration is making it easier for women who want to breastfeed to do so cheaply. Normally costly breast pumps are free for most new mothers under Obamacare—and they’re being snatched up in droves by eager moms.

The pro-breastfeeding faction of the long-standing debate between breastfeeders and formula feeders—especially active on mothering blogs and online forums—has recent research on its side. But the feud still shows no signs of letting up.