California has 2nd highest rate of breast-feeding in the country. (Getty Images)
California has 2nd highest rate of breast-feeding in the country. (Getty Images)

Across the country, nearly 77 percent of mothers are breast-feeding their newborns, and nearly half are still at it when babies are six months.

Those numbers from the Centers for Disease Control were collected in 2010, and they reflect an increase in breast-feeding since 2000.

California moms are doing even better. More than 90 percent of mothers in the state have “ever breast-fed” their babies and 71 percent are still nursing at 6 months. (We’re #2 to Idaho which just nudged California moms out on the stats.)

Breast-feeding has health benefits to babies, says Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, including lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity. Plus mothers who breast-feed can reduce their own risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life, when solid foods are introduced. The AAP says that moms should continue to complement the solid foods with breast-feeding until the baby is one year old. The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding up to two years of age.

Hospitals are critical settings for supporting moms in breast-feeding. Newborns who “room-in” with their mothers and have skin-to-skin contact (the newborn is placed directly on a mother’s chest after birth) have a better chs a nce of latching on and successfully breast-feeding.

Here, too, California has strong policies to support these practices. Nearly 80 percent of hospitals in the state ensure that virtually all newborns have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers and about 72 percent of hospitals have rooming-in for babies.

Another indicator the CDC measures is whether infants are offered formula before two days of age. If a breast-feeding baby is offered supplemental formula, it can sabotage the baby’s continued success in breast-feeding. Nationally, about 24 percent of breast-fed babies were given formula before they were two days old. In California, the rate was just under 17 percent.

Finally, California also has regulations to support breast-feeding at work or school.

More California Moms Are Breast-Feeding Their Babies 1 August,2013Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

State of Health Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor