breastfeeding report card

[deleted account] ( 36 moms have responded )

From the breastfeeding in public thread, I was reminded of this article I read a few days ago. I know we all have different experiences with acceptance of breastfeeding (in public, extended, in general) based either partially, or mostly on the culture in which we live. Click on this link and scroll down until you see the US map. You can see the vastly different breastfeeding rates in the different regions and states. Louisiana is pretty poor =(. I wish I had a breastfeeding map of all the countries represented here. Anyway, please speak up about your region and why you think the breastfeeding rates are what they are (not just US members, all members!) What can we do to improve these rates. By the way, this is not about vilifying formula. There will always be a need for it. It is not evil. Thank God we have it. But I'm just thinking that since the Northwest has an amazing breastfeeding rate, the South (insert your own region here) should be able to accomplish that too.

**edit** silly me forgot to include the link!


Cat - posted on 09/26/2010




I'm in BC Canada, and as far as I know, breastfeeding is wildly supported here... I've breastfed three kids to 18mths, never had anyone stare or glare at me for NIP or anything, never had any family members be anything but supportive, the hospital was supportive, they wouldnt even offer bottles, if someone requested formula it was given in a sterile medicine cup so as not to create nipple confusion... plus my Doula was also a lactation consultant, she was great! I had a great bf'ing experience all around... I have been discussing this issue with my American friends, and we believe there'd be more bf'ing support if they got longer time for maternity leave... here its a year, but the states has generally a super short maternity leave, making it awkward for some to do the pumping required, etc.

[deleted account]

P.S. I'm in Canada, and I just wanted to say that I had tons of support offered to me while in the hospital by the nurses and doctors AND afterwards by my doctor who encouraged me to attend a breastfeeding clinic. The consultants at the nursing clinic were also wonderful. I'm not sure if everyone gets this type of support in Canada but I'm grateful that I had a positive experience.

Amie - posted on 09/17/2010




For Canada:

In 2009, nearly 88% of women between the ages of 15 and 55 who had given birth in the past five years breastfed their most recent baby, even if only for a short time.

Of the new mothers who did not attempt to breastfeed, medical factors were cited by 28% as the reason for not breastfeeding while an additional 25% said that breastfeeding was "unappealing" and nearly 20% said that bottle feeding was easier.

Of those who did breastfeed, 7% stopped after less than one week and 21% stopped by one month. Just over half of new mothers who initiated breastfeeding (54%) continued for six months or longer, while 16% breastfed for more than a year.

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Heather - posted on 09/26/2010




I was born in Alaska and I think it's hilarious that they have a 50% rate there....a whole 5 out of the 10people who live there bf! lol No really though, I think it has to do with access to formula there. You can't just take a baby out in the middle of winter when it's -50 degrees and the snow is 3ft. high. AND, a lot of people have to have all their food and neccessities flown in by helicopter. would definitely be the best/only option there.

Kim - posted on 09/26/2010




I'm in MA. I know a lot of people try to breastfeed and I think they start to have trouble and think they are a failure and stop. Others have to go back to work and its hard to find time to pump at work. Personally I let all 3 of my kids self wean, which was 18 months, 16 months and 23 months. I'm a SAHM though and took classes so I knew what was going on. I really think the classes helped me be more confident and should be available to everyone. I have no problem with others that choose not to breastfeed. Well except someone I knew who wouldn't even try even though both of her daughters were allergic to most formulas and they had little money but had to spend $20 per can! And she was a SAHM. Why not at least try right?

[deleted account]

I'm the odd one out here....if I had followed everyone's lead around me I would have formula fed. I THOUGHT everyone breastfed but my own mom later admitted that she didn't make it past 3 weeks.....I was shocked....I'm not sure why but I had always thought she breastfed me and I just assumed it was until at least a year. I'm not sure why (possibly from all the reading I did while I was pregnant) but I just thought breastfeeding was the norm. I was aware of formula but I just thought it was only in rare situations. After being on CoM's for a while I realize how naive and ignorant that sounds but that's the truth. To be honest though, if it weren't for the nazi nurses in the hospital (one amazing lady in particular), my doctor and the women at the lactation clinic, I probably would have stopped around 2 weeks....I struggled for sure.

Anyhow, I'm not sure why I'm rambling on about this? Probably because I've read that some of you breastfed because it was what you had grown up with etc. but that's not the case in my situation.....I decided early in my pregnancy I wanted to try it and I was determined.

Becky - posted on 09/19/2010




I'm in Calgary, Alberta, and just from what I've seen, I'd say the breastfeeding rates are pretty high here. I see people nursing in public all the time. Just about everyone I know with young kids has at least started off breastfeeding, and most have bfed for at least a year.
There is a lot of support for breastfeeding here. When Cole was born, even though he was small for gestational age and severely jaundiced, no one even suggested I supplement with formula. In fact, because they were monitoring his blood sugar very carefully, I asked if I'd have to supplement if it dropped, and they said they'd do whatever they could to try to prevent having to supplement! Then, when the health nurses were concerned about my youngest's lack of weight gain at his 9 month appointment, I said, "well, I just don't want anyone to tell me to put him on formula" and they said that no one here would ever tell me that. Apparently our health region is very pro-breastfeeding and strongly encourages doing it to a year or beyond. We're not given formula samples in the hospital or at doctor's offices. My doctor always told me "great job!" when I told him I was still breastfeeding.
I think the attitudes towards it around here have a lot to do with the higher breastfeeding rates. But I'd also agree with Mary that the family and environment you live in has a lot to do with it too. Everyone in my family breastfed, most for at least a year, or close to it. And I grew up in Africa, where I honestly don't think I ever saw a baby being formula fed! So really, for me, there was no question about whether I would breastfeed. That was just how you fed a baby!

[deleted account]

I live in Tennessee and I'm not shocked that the breastfeeding rate at six months is less than 30%. The truth is that most mothers in Tennessee initiate breastfeeding from birth, but the drop off rate is pretty high. I think part of the reason is early weaning onto solid food. I'm not saying that its a cultural thing, but it seemed like everyone was shocked that my son had not already recieved some food at 3 months. Obviously feeding a young infant solid food is going to affect how frequently they want to nurse and this will have an effect on the mothers milk supply. I knew some moms who were giving their babies a whole jar of baby food at 2 months. Admittedy they were from poorer communities, so I will say that poverty in the south also palys a part in this.

Laressa - posted on 09/19/2010




I didn't know that they even allowed you to bottlefeed your baby in the hospital. I had my daughter in Saskatchewan (Canada) The hospital I gave birth in is a pretty progressive university hospital. They are working at getting 0 formula in the hospital. The pediatric unit is pretty much the only place they allow formula. That being said I did need to supplement with formula days 2+3 because my milk wasn't in and baby was very jaundiced so needed extra liquids. There is def a place for formula!

BF was not easy for me esp at first, but with the encouragement of my health nurse, lactation consutants, mom friends etc. I was able to do what my heart told me even when doc advised to wean. In fact I'm still nursing and she is now 13 mo. and I'm 5 mo pregnant.

ME - posted on 09/19/2010




I lived in CO when I had my son, and I got WAY more support for BF there than I am in IL with my Daughter...interesting. Even our pediatricians are discouraging me from continuing BF, and they have been since Mayah started having her GI issues at 6 weeks. She is now 7 months, and independent research has shown me that they are COMPLETELY wrong to be suggesting that I quit, not sure what's wrong with them, but as I'm on medicaid and there are no other peds in the area that accept it, I don't have a choice about where I take my kids. Docs, friends, etc were all more encouraging of BF in CO (where the rates are 50%)...I'm sure social acceptability and medical/family support have a lot to do with BF rates.

I never considered NOT mother BF'd all five of her children past one year, and I always intended to give it a shot. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. Despite an incredibly painful Thrush infection that lasted from 3-9 months with my first, I never gave up, and I'm sure that had something to do with the support I was receiving...I am very pleased that I made it to 18 months with Miles and I intend to go on as long as possible with Mayah as well.

[deleted account]

Arizona ---->40-49% but my gut tells me a majority is due to a larger population of Native Indian tribes. Maybe? I nursed (not exclusively) for only 9 months.

I agree with Mary about your co-worker's experiences. For me, nursing never gave me a true sense of warm fuzzies and love of the feeling of nursing. I did it becasue I knew it was the right thing to do for my son. Couple it with post-partum depression, and a general low supply overall, there were times I hated to nurse. To be 100% truthful and honest, once I started to supplement with formula, *I* was a happier mother. Plus he started to gain weight! I simply came to terms with my milk was never enough to satisfy him, but I did nurse. So he got some benefit. 5 1/2 years later, you can line up his Kinder class and never tell the difference between who got boob and who got formula. But in any event to get back tot he original topic, AZ had a larger percentage so that makes me happy.

Mary - posted on 09/19/2010




I'm in MD, where the rates aren't so bad. I'm someone who breastfed for 13 1/2 months, at which point my daughter self weaned after all of us came down with a horrendous GI bug.

I wanted to weigh in on the idea about our shorter maternity leaves impacting breastfeeding. I'm not sure it's as simple as that. I think a lot of women do decide to switch to formula once they return to work, because pumping at work is a giant pain in the ass, although obviously not impossible, since I, and almost everyone I work with, did manage it...which brings up something that I think can be rather influential in how long a working bf'ing mom stays with it.

I work in a female-dominated profession. WIth the exception of a few males docs, our staff is entirely made up of women. ALL of whom breastfed. When a good friend of mine had her daughter, she breastfed, but she HATED it. She did it, because she believed it was the best thing for her baby, but she never got the warm fuzzies most of us get from nursing after you make it through those difficult first few weeks. She did return to work at about 15 weeks, and started to pump, but she hated that even more, and was more than ready to throw in the towel...except that everyone gave her so much crap about at least sticking it out to 6 months, that she caved in to peer pressure and stayed with it. She told me this before Molly was born, to "warn" me about how much people would have input into my feeding decisions.

For me, stopping was never a consideration, because I came from a family of breastfeeders. My mother and sister had both breastfed for at least a year, so the thought of only nursing until I returned to work was inconceivable to me. Which is my point....I think a lot of women are influenced by those around them. Usually, many women will stop at 3 months because almost everyone they know did, so that is "normal". I happened to work in a culture that is just the opposite. I have a feeling that more than one person I work with breastfed longer than they may have intended because most of us did it for over a year, so they continued in order to "fit in".

I should add that pumping at work was not necessarily easier becasue of all of us did it. Our work flow is such that breaks occur when the census allows, not always when you "need" them. Just because my boobs were full did not mean I could pump right then...if I was in the middle of a section, there wasn't always someone who could relieve me...more than once, I had to wait until the patient was in recovery and stable, pull the curtain around me in the next bay, and pump while standing next to the stretcher the pump was resting on. It wasn't always pleasant or easy, but I guess the thought of not doing it just because it was hard wasn't acceptable...after all, if every one else could stick it out, couldn't I?

Chani - posted on 09/19/2010




I am in north Queensland Australia and i have to say it is pretty relaxed breastfeeding attitude here to, the midwives and the nurses are really encouraging . My attitude towards BFing was more then likely implanted by my mother and step mother and their positive attitudes to BFing. Most mothers i know started out BF but i can't even think of one around me who went past six months. My third child is 14 months and we are still going strong, i was tandem feeding with my youngest 2 till my middle man weened himself, and my first weened by himself at 13 months. We have great facilities everywhere so mums can be comfortable, and if there ever are comments made to mums breastfeeding there are usually a whole lot of angry rebuttles defending BF. I think the government is working hard to postively re-enforce peoples attitudes to BF here.

Cyndel - posted on 09/18/2010




I live in TN, I'm surprised that the breastfeeding rate is so low because almost every one I know breastfeeds exclusively until 4-6 months then feeds solids and breast feeds until 1-1.5 yrs. Maybe it is just the area I live in. We are all pretty tight on budget and mostly stay at home moms or online students, so I guess money has a bit to do with it too. Any way, I'm just surprised.

Rosie - posted on 09/18/2010




iowa is decent 40-49 %. i see a direct correlation between poverty and lower breastfeeding rates when looking at this map. there are MANY poor people in the south, along with higher teen pregnancy rates among black people, which also make up alot of the souths population-which in turn usually leads to poverty..

i also feel that people in the northwest are more "hippies", lol! they are very laid back, back to nature type of people, which makes sense that they would want the natural choice of nourishment for their child.

i think to help the breastfeeding rates go up, especially in the south, you are going to have to have paid maternity leave, more education on the benefits of breastfeeding, and more workplaces that the poor work at (retail, fast food) to be more accomidating to those who need to pump, or feed their child at work.

other places, i don't know what would help. i know just hearing stories of someone freaking out in public about someone breastfeeding is enough to scare me into not BF in public, which may or may not lead someone else to give it up altogether. there needs to be clear laws on breastfeeding in public. i hear sooo many times of restaurant owners making bf mothers feel unwelcome or that they should cover up, or go move somewhere else. as far as i know that's illegal, and they SHOULD be VERY aware of that fact. :)

[deleted account]

Breast feeding stats for the UK:

Only 78% of mums attempt to bf. Of the mums who DON'T bf at all 65% said it was due to them feeling so self-conscious of people staring. By 6 months only 22% mums are still bf.

Reasons which affect the bf rates in the UK compared to other European countries are:

> British women are seen as more prudish and are less comfortable with our bodies than our European neighbours.

> We also look at breasts in a more sexual way than many Europeans do (maybe connected to the fact that they have a better family culture than the UK).

> There is also a generational factor many British women have never seen a bf mum so it can be daunting to attempt it and for many more their moms and grandmothers never bf either.

> Also a study in 2004 found that educational and career level affected the mothers choice to attempt to bf. Women with higher level jobs who were well educated were 4 times more likely to bf, as were mums who were over 30 when they gave birth.

However for the mums who did bf, some 60% of women felt the UK frowned upon bf mums. 66% felt that bf in public was stressful. More than 50% of bf mums have been asked to leave a restaurant, cafe or bar or to stop bf.

Regionally the North West and West Midlands were the worst places for bf mums being abused or unwelcome. This maybe connected to the educational level because, both of these regions have generally lower level work (factory work, manufacturing, call centres etc). London on the otherhand is the region where bf mums are the least likely to be challenged.

In comparison 99% of new mums attempt to bf in Norway, 91% in Italy and 84% in Spain.

[deleted account]

Sara, you asked " But how do you make it so normal that no one has to think twice about the fact that, yes, milk comes from the breast, which just so happens to be a sexual body part."

I think that's what some organizations, like Le Leche League are TRYING to do but they're getting a lot of resistance. I think more local support groups, these types of sites, advertisements etc. until things start to WILL happen.

[deleted account]

Well since I'm right across the border in Abbotsford, BC, Canada I'm gonna lump myself right in with Washington State. GO WASHINGTON!

Tanya - posted on 09/18/2010




Well in WV it is against the law to breast feed in public.
I would say that in some of the poorer states the mom can have formula covered by WIC.

I live in SC and the 1st nurse that came to "help" me breast feed didn't seem comfortable. Thankfully my SIL came and showed me and we got it right after that.

It is sad to see so many states with low b/f rates. Does anyone know if these states have higher teen mom rates?

Jessica - posted on 09/18/2010




I'm in Pennsylvania and it gives us 30-39%. Boo, lol. I really couldn't say why it is at that rate. I think it is interesting to see that WV, KY, TN and some others are the lowest. I hate to say this because I know its going to sound like I'm stereotyping, but a lot of those states have much "poorer" populations with a lot of people living in very remote areas. It almost seems contradictory when you think of it that way since BFing is so much cheaper. But i am thinking that perhaps a lot of those people probably have little to no education on the subject as well. I am more familiar with this area so that is just my guess!

Ez - posted on 09/17/2010




I agree with you that bad or outdated advice is a HUGE reason for mothers stopping early on. I experienced this myself, although I did also have a medical complication that reduced my supply. I became severely anaemic after delivery (my haemaglobin was a dangerously low 78) and I had a blood transfusion on day 4. I was warned that it my condition would be likely to cause me some major supply problems, and considering my milk hadn't even come in at that point it was very stressful!

When my milk did eventually come in (day 5) I didn't get engorged, or leak, or feel even remotely uncomfortable. I had a big baby who fed constantly (I was lucky to get an hour between feeds, often it was less) through the day, although she did sleep well at night. I raised my concerns at my daughter's 2 week check up, and was told there was nothing I could do (I was already on iron tablets and loading up on iron-rich foods) and I would have to supplement. I wasn't ready to give up yet, so I then went to see a baby health nurse, who gave me other tips to try and boost my supply. I then consulted with an LC at the hospital, who said to just keep feeding on demand and my supply would eventually establish. At 6 weeks, I relented and added formula to supplement. What little milk I had quickly disappeared (even though she was always put to the breast first, and always atleast every 2-3hrs). Long story short, I have since found out that some Aussie doctors will prescribe Maxalon (a common anti-nausea med) to increase lactation and boost supply. Why was this not suggested to me during all of these conversations? For all I know, it may still not have worked because my blood levels were so bad, but I will always have that 'what if' hanging over my head now.

If this has happened to me - someone who had planned on BFing until 2 - I imagine having a doctor tell you to supplement or switch is all the incentive a stressed, confused and tired new mother needs to give up. The doctor who told me to supplement didn't mention anything about the effect that would have on my supply. Luckily my mother was a great resource in BFing and told me this, and the baby nurse and LC certainly focused on it. But for many mothers they would simply take the doctor's advice, introduce the formula and lose their supply without even knowing why.

[deleted account]

So now my question is, how do you change those attitudes? I don't expect you to answer that question. But I've been wracking my brain.

About a month ago an expecting mom told me she would never breastfeed because she wasn't "comfortable" with the idea. Her choice. That's fine. But how do you make it so normal that no one has to think twice about the fact that, yes, milk comes from the breast, which just so happens to be a sexual body part. Why can't the breasts be both?

Also, I wonder how much is due to ignorance. How many women who want to BF actually fail because of bad advice from medical professionals? I've seen that happen too. I would love to see some sort of doctor/pediatrician evaluation and report which includes breastfeeding rates. That way moms who WANT to nurse, can chose a pediatrician that will give them sound advice and encouragement. Then the mom won't unknowingly make a decision that is detrimental to her breastfeeding relationship or think she has supply issues when she really doesn't, etc.

I never want to take away the choice of formula. People have their reasons for using it, and I'm not going to judge those reasons. But if only 2-4% of women actually can't produce milk (I think that's the stat), why is our initial BF rate less than 60% and a common reason I hear for stopping is supply?

My post is getting long and thoughts are jumbling. I think that means I need to go to bed. =) Look forward to see other responses!

Ez - posted on 09/17/2010




Fair point Sara. So it must be related to attitudes to breasts themselves. As Loureen said in the Hooter Hiders thread, if you come to any Aussie beach you will see boobs everywhere. Nobody cares. I imagine this relaxed attitude to our bodies is also a determining factor in why we have decent BFing rates.

[deleted account]

Erin, that makes a lot of sense and I agree. But there has to be more to it. In the US, breastfeeding rates are all over the place. Why is it that way within the same country? There's more to it than the maternity leave. As I said in the OP, if the Northwest can have high BF rates, why can't the rest of the country?

Ez - posted on 09/17/2010




I'm sure the fact we have better maternity leave legislation plays a huge part. We are no where near on par with some Scandinavian and European countries but we do have job security for 12 months. All public service (government) jobs have 14 weeks (I think) paid maternity leave, and many large corporations (banks etc) voluntarily do this. We also have a government 'baby bonus' of $5,000, which assists in mothers staying home with their newborns as long as possible. I have no doubt that if we had to go back to work after only a few weeks, our BFing rates would drop too.

[deleted account]

Wow Erin, those stats are pretty great compared to my area. Makes me want to come to a sociological study to see what you do different and bring it all back to my state leaders, hospitals, etc.

Ez - posted on 09/17/2010




According to NSW data collected in 2003 and 2004, 87 per cent of infants had been introduced to breastfeeding at birth. However, by six months of age this figure had dropped to 54 per cent and by 12 months of age, only 29 per cent of infants were still being breastfed.

So these stats are a little old, but I found a statement on another website that said Australian breastfeeding rates have remained static for 12 years, so I assume these are actually quite accurate.

Ez - posted on 09/17/2010




I'm in Newcastle, AUS (about 2hrs up the coast from Sydney). Breastfeeding in public is completely normal and a non-issue here. I will say that, anecdotally, I don't think many women around me BF past a year (I only know of 3 personally). Everyone I see BFing in public have much younger babies.

[deleted account]

So I wonder what it is about your culture that makes it so normal, whereas it's so weird in my culture.

Just tonight I had some ladies over at my house. One mom said she just weaned her 16 month old, and she got some strange looks. Two ladies said they were done at 3 months and wouldn't have gone longer. I spoke up and mentioned that it is recommended to BF to age two and that her baby's habits (like twiddling the nipples) were just natural parts of breastfeeding. But I made sure to say that it's not for everyone, as to not ostracize those that chose to formula feed. I don't know what the solution would be. I think more women would breastfeed around here if it was "normal." Or maybe if it wasn't normal to flash your boobs for beads at Mardi Gras.

Kate CP - posted on 09/17/2010




Hey, Texas is pretty high up there. Good for us. Maybe the only good thing Texas has done for a while. :/

Charlie - posted on 09/17/2010




Australian coastie here .

Breastfeeding is widely accepted here most of my friends BF and we have a lot of support from Aussie breastfeeding association and local midwives and it is generally encouraged in hospitals as ive mentioned before most cafes and have breastfeeding welcome stickers on their windows .

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