Breastfeeding is on the rise in nearly every state in the nation, with 19 posting double-digit gains over the most recent decade for which data is available.
Slightly more than 79 percent of young children had been breastfed at some point, according to the latest Center for Disease Control survey data included in the organization’s 2014 breastfeeding report card. That 2011 data is 7.6 percentage points higher than a decade earlier but there are huge variations by state.
“I don’t know that we fully know” why states vary so much, Larry Grummer-Strawn, chief of the CDC’s nutrition branch, told Washington Post colleague Lenny Bernstein, who writes the To Your Health blog. “It’s a different culture … in the general population and among health professionals.”
The CDC’s annual breastfeeding report card charts not only breastfeeding rates, but also several indicators that chart how well-supported breastfeeding is in each state. Those indicators measure, among other things, supportive regulations and proportional numbers of certified lactation counselors.
“Breastfeeding, with its many known health benefits for infants, children, and mothers, is a key strategy,” in pursuing the CDC’s goal of promoting Americans’ health, the report card’s authors write.
Breastfeeding rates in 2011
Rates in 2011 were highest in California, where 93 percent of children had been breastfed at some point. Rates in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont were at or above 90 percent as well, while West Virginia and Louisiana had rates below 60 percent. Louisiana’s was the lowest in the nation, at just 57 percent.
Of the infants born that year, nearly half were still breastfeeding after six months and more than 1 in 4 was breastfeeding after a year.
Change over the past decade
Nearly every state saw breastfeeding rates increase from 2001 to 2011, according to CDC data. Arizona and Idaho posted one percentage point declines, but both remain in the middle of the pack of states. Delaware shed just a tenth of a point, but ranks among the worst five states with a 66 percent breastfeeding rate. Wyoming saw the biggest increase, seeing its breastfeeding rate jump from 68 percent to 88 percent. Eighteen other states saw double-digit increases.