Here are the latest 100 breastfeeding statistics and facts for 2023.
Everything from the benefits of breastfeeding for moms, to national breastfeeding statistics, to the early effects of COVID-19 on breastfeeding.
- The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies
- The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms
- Rates and Statistics Around The Nation
- Other National Breastfeeding Statistics
- Global Breastfeeding Statistics
- Important Breastfeeding Properties
- The Recommended Breastfeeding Timeline
- Statistics for the Recommended Breastfeeding Diet
- Obstacles to Breastfeeding
- Supplemental Feeding Statistics
- COVID-19 and Breastfeeding
- More Resources
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies
There are remarkable and pronounced benefits to breastfeeding for both baby and mother. Because of this, breastfeeding is a key strategy for improving public health. Here are the most up-to-date breastfeeding statistics that demonstrate its power and value.
- Over 820,000 child lives could be saved every year if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed. (World Health Organization)
- Non-breastfed babies are 4.8 times more likely to suffer from neglect or abuse than children breastfed for at least 4 months. (PubMed)
Reduced Risk of Serious Illness or Death
- Preterm infants are 58%-77% less likely to develop necrotizing enterocolitis by being given human milk. (The Lancet)
- Babies who are breastfed have a 36% reduction in the risk for SIDS. (AAP)
- Infants who exclusively breastfed for more than 6 months are 4 times less likely to get pneumonia compared to infants who exclusively breastfed for 4-6 months. (AAP)
- Breastfed babies have a risk reduction of 20% for acute lymphocytic leukemia and a 15% decrease in the risk of acute myeloid leukemia if breastfed for 6 months or longer. (AAP)
- Nursing babies receive antibodies to protect against diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide. (World Health Organization)
- Any breastfeeding reduces the risk for otitis media (middle ear inflammation) by 23%, and exclusive breastfeeding for 3 months reduces the risk by 50%. (AAP)
Reduced Risk For Allergies and Respiratory Illness
- The risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections in the first year is reduced by 72% if infants breastfeed exclusively for more than 4 months. (AAP)
- Babies who exclusively breastfeed for 4-6 months have reduced risk for asthma, eczema, atopic dermatitis: 27% for non-risk babies and 42% reduction in babies with a family history of these conditions. (AAP)
- The risk for Celiac disease is 52% lower in infants breastfed at the time of gluten exposure and a longer duration of breastfeeding seems to have a continued positive effect. (AAP)
Better Gastrointestinal Health
- Breastfeeding provides a 64% reduction in gastrointestinal infections. (AAP)
- Breastfed babies have a 31% reduction in childhood inflammatory bowel disease. (AAP)
Protection Against Obesity
- Each month of breastfeeding provides a 4% reduction in the risk of becoming overweight. Bottle feeding, even with expressed milk, may not provide quite the same benefit. (AAP)
- Nursing babies have a 15%-30% reduction in childhood and adult obesity. (AAP)
Protection Against Diabetes
- Babies who are exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months have a 30% reduction in type 1 diabetes. (AAP)
- Infants exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months have a 40% reduction in type 2 diabetes. (AAP)
- Children and adults who were breastfed score higher on intelligence tests. (World Health Organization)
- There’s a notable difference in intelligence in children breastfed at least 3 months, with even better results for breastfeeding 3 months and beyond. (AAP)
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms
Breastfeeding can positively impact a mother’s health, too. Here are the most important breastfeeding statistics for women.
Quicker Postpartum Recovery
- Breastfeeding moms experience decreased postpartum bleeding, with the uterus returning to pre-pregnancy size more quickly. (AAP)
- The hormones released while breastfeeding help the uterus shrink back to pre-pregnancy size. (Office on Women’s Health)
- Breastfeeding mothers experience decreased menstrual blood loss and increased child spacing (lactational amenorrhea). (AAP)
- Mothers who exclusively breastfeed can burn as many as 600 calories a day, helping them return to pre-baby weight more quickly. (Office On Women’s Health)
Better Mental Health
- The brain releases oxytocin and prolactin hormones while breastfeeding, which encourages mothers to bond with their babies, and helps to ease stress and anxiety. (Medela)
Free and Effective Birth Control
- Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) provides 98% effective, free, birth control for the first 6 months. However, most success with LAM comes from countries where moms breastfeed more often and for longer. In the United States the failure rate of LAM is high. (Planned Parenthood)
Reduced Risk for Cancers and Disease
- Women who breastfeed have a 4-12% decrease in type 2 diabetes for every year or nursing. (AAP)
- With a cumulative breastfeeding duration of 12 months to 24 months, the mothers risk of rheumatoid arthritis decreases 20% and 50%, respectively. (AAP)
- Breastfeeding for more than 12 months provides a 28% reduction in breast cancer. (AAP)
- Near universal levels of breastfeeding could prevent 20,000 annual deaths from breast cancer. (The Lancet)
- Women who breastfeed for at least 12 months have a 28% reduction in ovarian cancer. (AAP)
- For women who breastfeed for 12-23 months, cardiovascular disease risk goes down 10%, hypertension goes down 11%, and hyperlipidemia by 19%. (AAP)
Rates and Statistics Around The Nation
- Babies in metropolitan areas are more likely to ever be breastfed than those in rural areas. (CDC)
- Babies in the southeastern U.S. are the least likely to ever be breastfed. (CDC)
- States with the highest breastfeeding rates:
- Colorado (94%)
- Washington (93.7%)
- Idaho (93.5%)
- Alaska (92.9%)
- Wyoming (92.4%)
- Minnesota (91.9%)
- Vermont (91.8%)
- Utah (91.4%)
At 6 Months
- Vermont (73.2%)
- Hawaii (70.9%)
- Minnesota (69.9%)
- Washington (68%)
- Alaska (67.6%)
- Maryland (66.8%)
- Oregon (65.2%)
- States with the lowest breastfeeding rates
- West Virginia (59.8%)
- Mississippi (69.4%)
- Florida (71%)
- Alabama (71.1%)
- Louisiana (71.1%)
At 6 Months
- West Virginia (31.7%)
- Mississippi (35.7%)
- Alabama (37.7%)
- Florida (40.3%)
- Louisiana (45%)
- Arkansas (46.5%)
- South Carolina (46.6%)
By Race and Ethnicity
- Percentage of any initial breastfeeding (CDC):
- Asian infants (90.8%)
- Non-Hispanic White infants (85.3%)
- Hispanic infants (83.0%)
- Non-Hispanic Black infants (74.1%)
- Any breastfeeding at 6 Months (CDC):
- Non-Hispanic Asian (70.2%)
- Non-Hispanic White (59.9%)
- Hispanic (51.4%)
- Non-Hispanic Black (44%)
By Socioeconomic Status
- Infants eligible for and receiving the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are less likely to ever be breastfed (74.7%) than infants eligible, but not receiving WIC (85.6%), and infants ineligible for WIC (91.2%). (CDC)
- Poverty Income Ratio and Initial Breastfeeding (CDC):
- Less than 100 (74%)
- 100-199 (80.1%)
- 200-399 (85.3%)
- 400-599 (90.7%)
- 600 or greater (91.6%)
3. Poverty Income Ratio and Any Breastfeeding at 6 months (CDC):
- Less than 100 (41.1%)
- 100-199 (49.9%)
- 200-399 (59%)
- 400-599 (68.4%)
- 600 or greater (70.4%)
By Maternal Education
- Percentage of any initial breastfeeding (CDC):
- Less than high school (71.6%)
- High school graduate (73.4%)
- Some college or technical school (85.7%)
- College graduate (91.5%)
- Any breastfeeding at 6 months:
- Less than high school (39.2%)
- High school graduate (39.7%)
- Some college or technical school (54.2%)
- College graduate (71.9%)
By Maternal Age
- Younger mothers aged 20 to 29 years are less likely to ever breastfeed (79.9%) than mothers aged 30 years or older (84.9%). (CDC)
Other National Breastfeeding Statistics
The CDC’s national Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey measures maternity care practices that affect how babies are fed in the hospital and clinical settings. This survey typically takes place every 2 years.
The survey covers 6 main areas, dealing with early postpartum care practices, feeding practices, education and support of mothers and caregivers, staff and provider responsibilities and training, and hospital policies and procedures. Here are the recent scores:
- The national total mPINC score was 81 out of 100 and state total mPINC scores ranged from 70 to 90.
- mPINC immediate postpartum care scored at 83.
- Rooming-in scored 76 nationally according to mPINC standards.
- mPINC feeding practices scored 82.
- The mPINC feeding education and support scored 93 out of 100 nationally.
- Discharge support scored a 79 according to mPINC standards.
- The mPINC institutional management score was 71.
- The state that scored the highest overall was New Hampshire, while the state that scored the lowest was Tennessee.
- As of May 2022, 12 states had enacted paid family and medial leave (PFML) insurance legislation. Eight state programs are currently paying benefits, and 4 have not yet begun paying benefits.
- The states who are currently paying PFML benefits are California, Connecticut, District of Coulmbia, Massachussetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.
- If 90% of US mothers chose to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, there would be a savings of $13 billion per year in healthcare costs (NOT including those related to a reduction of parents missing work or costs for adults due to diseases that came on in childhood). (AAP)
Facilitating breastfeeding in the workplace cuts down on company healthcare costs, reduces absenteeism, and reduces employee turnover.
- For every $1 a business invests into creating a lactation support program for employees (including a designated private place to pump with refrigeration and hand-washing, and appropriate mother break time), $2-$3 is received in return. (PubMed)
Global Breastfeeding Statistics
- Globally, only 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed. (World Health Organization)
- Globally, 3 in 5 babies are not breastfed within the first hour of life. (World Health Organization)
- Nearly 66% of infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months—a rate that has not improved in 2 decades. (World Health Organization)
- In low-income and middle-income countries, only 37% of children younger than 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed. (The Lancet)
- Rwanda has the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months with 84%, 400 times higher than the United States. (The Medium)
- The United Kingdom has the lowest rates of breastfeeding with only 1% of women exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. (UNICEF)
Important Breastfeeding Properties
No list of breastfeeding statistics could be complete without mentioning the important and unique properties of breast milk.
Provides Optimal Nutrition for Infants
- The number of calories and nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) in breast milk changes weekly and throughout the day, according to a baby’s needs. (Kindred Bravely)
- On average, each 100 mL of breast milk expressed by women between weeks 2-6 postpartum yields approximately the following: 65 calories, 6.7 g carbohydrates (primarily lactose, 3.8 g fat, and 1.3 g protein. (PubMed)
- Human breast milk is a complex matrix with a general composition of 87% water, 3.8% fat, 1.0% protein, and 7% lactose. The fat and lactose, respectively, provide 50% and 40% of the total energy of the milk. (PubMed)
- Over the course of one feeding, the fat content of mature milk can range from 1 percent at the beginning to 5 percent at the end. (Kindred Bravely)
- Mothers of premature infants produce breast milk higher in protein, fat, and minerals that prevent illness and infection. (Medela)
- Premature babies who receive more breast milk in the first 28 days of life have better brain development by the time their original birth date arrives, and have a higher IQ and better memory skills later in childhood. (Medela)
Prevents and Treats Sickness
- Breast milk has novel mechanisms that make it a personalized medicine for infants. (The Lancet)
- Mother’s who breastfeed when sick produce antibodies that can be passed to their babies, preventing them from getting sick. (Office on Women’s Health)
- When a baby is sick, it’s believed that mammary gland receptors can identify pathogens in the baby’s “backwash” and develop antibodies to treat the illness. (Kindred Bravely)
- There are over 150 oligosaccharides in breast milk to ‘feed’ a baby’s gut microbiome. (PubMed)
Helps with Transitioning to Solids
- Formula only has one taste. But, breast milk, can provide a light taste of whatever the mother eats. This may make introducing solid foods easier, starting at 6 months old. (Office on Women’s Health)
Offers Healing Properties
- Breastmilk can help fight infections and reduce swelling in the breast. (Office on Women’s Health)
- Due to its antibodies, a few drops of breast milk can help treat cuts, relieve diaper rash, and even help infants with eye and ear infections. (PubMed)
Contains Helpful Hormones
- A mother’s milk provides a strong cocktail of beneficial hormones for infants, including:
- Melatonin (to help babies sleep)
- Leptin (to control weight, appetite and promote a healthy gut microbiome)
- Endorphins (to provide comfort and diminish pain)
- Thyroxine (to help the metabolism and intestines)
- Oxytocin (to decrease heart rate and blood pressure)(Kindred Bravely)
Unique Qualities of Colostrum
Colostrum is the first substance expressed from a woman’s breasts before her milk comes in. It’s produced immediately after birth and provides babies with all the nutrients they need while they await their mother’s breast milk. Here are some of its unique qualities:
- Colostrum has special proteins that safeguard a newborn’s stomach from harmful bacteria. (Office on Women’s Health)
- It has 10 times more beta-carotene than mature breast milk and more Vitamin E and Zinc to aid in eye and skin development. (Kindred Bravely)
- Contains epidermal growth factor which helps develop a baby’s GI tract and is especially helpful for preemies. (Kindred Bravely)
The Recommended Breastfeeding Timeline
Many new mothers wonder how long they should breastfeed their children. Fortunately, the recommended timeline is very clear. Here are the leading breastfeeding statistics and facts for how long women should breastfeed and how long women are breastfeeding.
- Mothers should introduce breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. (World Health Organization)
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants are exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods for at least 1 year. (CDC)
- The World Health Organization states breastfeeding should continue for up to 2 years and beyond.
How long does the average mother breastfeed?
- From the infants born in 2019, 83.2% started breastfeeding from birth. (CDC, National Immunization Survey 2020-2021)
- 55.8% of infants were still breastfeeding at 6 months. (CDC)
- At 12 months, breastfeeding rates drop to 35.9%. (CDC)
- The percentage of infants exclusively breastfed through 3 months is 45.3%. (CDC)
- The percentage of infants exclusively breastfed through 6 months is 24.9%. (CDC)
Statistics for the Recommended Breastfeeding Diet
- Lactating mothers who are well-nourished need an extra 450 to 500 calories a day that can be met by a modest increase in a normally balanced varied diet. (AAP)
- Clinicians recommend continued use of prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding. (PubMed)
- Breastfeeding mothers need an average daily intake of 200-300 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to ensure optimal concentration of preformed DHA in their milk. (AAP)
- 1-2 portions of fish like herring, canned light tuna, or salmon, per week will meet DHA requirements. (AAP)
Obstacles to Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can be a struggle for first time moms for various reasons. Below, are the most current statistics and facts on the leading breastfeeding obstacles and struggles.
- 60% of mothers stop breastfeeding before they had planned to. (PubMed)
- 14% of women who desired to breastfeed for at least 2 months, stopped by week 6. (PubMed)
- Mothers who postnatally report not breastfeeding for as long as they desired, have a mean duration of 3.8 months. (PubMed)
- The mean breastfeeding duration is 7.8 months for those who postnatally report meeting their desired breastfeeding duration. (PubMed)
- Breastfeeding duration is improved by 9%-15% when routine lactation consultation was integrated into the initial postpartum visit. (PubMed)
Major Obstacles to Breastfeeding
These are the top 10 factors mothers cite as reasons they stopped breastfeeding before their desired duration. (PubMed)
- 58% of women reported not having enough milk.
- 52% of women said breastmilk alone did not satisfy their baby.
- 29% cited problems getting milk to flow.
- 27% of women reported trouble with sucking or latching.
- 27% said their babies lost interest or self-weaned.
- 20% of women reported sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples.
- 19% reported their babies weren’t gaining enough weight.
- 17% cited illness or the need for medication.
- 17% said they wanted or needed someone else to feed their baby.
- 16% said breastfeeding was too inconvenient.
Supplemental Feeding Statistics
- The percentage of breastfed infants supplemented with infant formula before 2 days of age was 19.2% for infants born in 2019 (down from 19.4% of infants born in 2018). (CDC)
- 31.2% of breastfed infants were supplemented with formula before 3 months. (CDC)
- The percentage of breastfed infants supplemented before 6 months is 35.3%. (CDC)
- Hospital practices and policies that support breastfeeding have been shown to reduce medically unnecessary formula supplementation, reduce disparities in breastfeeding, and help give infants the best start in life. (CDC)
- A mother’s milk can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between the ages of 6 -12 months, and 1/3 between 12-24 months. The addition of new foods should start at 6 months to make up for these disparities. (World Health Organization)
COVID-19 and Breastfeeding
Studies are still being done about the effects of COVID-19 on breastfeeding, but preliminary data suggests that it has significantly affected the breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby.
A study done from the 2020 Los Angeles County triennial WIC Survey found:
- Compared with infants born before March 2020, the percentage of infants who received any breastfeeding at 1 month decreased from 79.66% to 76.96% among mothers in Southern California.
- The percentage of infants who received any breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months significantly decreased from 64.57% to 56.79% and from 48.69% to 38.62%, respectively.
- The prevalence of any breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months and fully breastfeeding at 1, 3, and 6 months was significantly lower among mothers who gave birth during the pandemic compared with mothers who gave birth before the pandemic. (Breastfeeding Medicine)
A similar study done during the lockdown (March 9 to May 8, 2020) in Acquaviva delle Fonti, Italy found:
- At discharge 69.4% of infants were exclusively breastfed during lockdown versus 97.7% of infants born in 2018.
- 54.3% of infants were exclusively breastfed at 30 days versus 76.3% of infants born in 2018.
- 31.8% of infants were exclusively breastfed at 90 days versus 70.5% of infants born in 2018. (International Breastfeeding Journal)
The good news is that current evidence suggests that breast milk is not a likely source of transmission of SARS-C0V-2. (CDC)
If a Breastfeeding Mother Contracts COVID-19
If the breastfeeding mother does contract COVID, here are the CDC’s recommendations to protect the nursing baby and others:
- A nursing child whose mother has a confirmed case COVID-19 is considered as “a close contact” and should be quarantined for the mother’s period of isolation and during their own quarantine thereafter.
- The COVID-positive mother should wash her hands using soap and water before touching their child or expressing breast milk in any form. In the absence of soap and water, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can also be used.
- The breastfeeding mother may choose to take precautions such as wearing a mask when within 6 feet of the child.
- All feeding equipment including breast pumps and bottles should be cleaned after each use.
If a Breastfeeding Infant Contracts COVID-19
COVID illness is rare in newborns and infants, but precautions should still be taken to protect the child and mother. Here are the CDC’s recommendations for protecting against COVID in babies and caring for those who are COVID-positive:
- All babies born to mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be tested, even if they show no signs of illness.
- Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 infection in babies is uncommon.
- Most babies who contract COVID are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
- Severe illness in babies including illness requiring mechanical ventilation has been reported but appears to be rare.
- Babies with underlying medical conditions and preterm infants may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
- Masks should NOT be put on children under the age of 2 as it can lead to suffocation.
- Recently pregnant women (for at least 42 days after giving birth) are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. These women should consult their healthcare providers on the risks and benefits of continuing to breastfeed during the child’s COVID-19 illness.
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