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Report: Oregon Tops States for Breastfeeding Babies

PHOTO: A new CDC report says more than half of Oregon babies are breast-fed during their first year of life. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: A new CDC report says more than half of Oregon babies are breast-fed during their first year of life. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
August 8, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's World Breastfeeding Week, and a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more Oregon mothers breastfeed their children through the first year of life than in any other state. The report indicates that that isn't the case in most places. About 77 percent of new moms start out breastfeeding, but only 27 percent are still doing so a year later.

Denise Johnson, health education coordinator for CareOregon, said the Affordable Care Act should improve those numbers, because health insurance will cover lactation counseling.

"That's one key thing," Johnson stressed. "Often, mothers will get home, they'll run into challenges - and just having someone that they can call to ask questions will be a big support in enabling mothers to continue breastfeeding."

Johnson also believes breastfeeding numbers will continue to rise because the federal government's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for low-income families has adopted a "breastfeeding-first" policy, due to the health benefits breastfeeding provides to both babies and mothers.

The report says more than half (53.2 percent) of Oregon babies are exclusively breast-fed at three months of age. By six months, that number drops to just about one in four (23.9 percent).

Katherine Wilson-Thompson is an international board-certified lactation consultant. She said the drop-off signals the need for support for new moms - adding that they shouldn't be shy about asking for help.

"I'd recommend moms start while they're pregnant," Wilson-Thompson said, "not wait until after they have their baby, because women that are pregnant can benefit from seeing how newborns nurse, as well as breastfeeding for a normal length of time."

According to the CDC, hospital maternity-room policies also play a role. It recommends immediate skin contact between mom and baby after birth, and not whisking infants off to a separate nursery. About two-thirds of Oregon hospitals now have babies "room in" with their mothers.

The report is online at cdc.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR