More Colorado women each year are choosing to give their babies a healthy start by breastfeeding for at least the first six months of their lives. State breastfeeding rates continue to climb and are higher than the national average on every indicator.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2015 breastfeeding report shows breastfeeding indicators for Colorado babies born in 2012 rose approximately 5 percent from those born in 2011:
- Ever breastfed: 81 to 86.3 percent (80 percent nationally)
- Breastfed at six months: 55.2 to 60 percent (51.4 percent nationally)
- Breastfed at one year: 29.3 to 36.2 percent (29.2 percent nationally)
- Exclusively breastfed at 3 months: 50.3 to 54.7 percent (43.3 percent nationally)
- Exclusively breastfed at 6 months: 25.8 to 30.3 percent (21.9 percent nationally)
“Breastfeeding helps fight childhood obesity and gives Colorado babies a healthy start on life,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “To become the healthiest state in the nation, we must start with our youngest Coloradans.”
Colorado excels nationally with exclusive breastfeeding rates, much of which can be attributed to improved breastfeeding practices at many Colorado hospitals. Avoiding formula during the first six months of a baby’s life dramatically increases the benefits breastfeeding provides.
Breastfeeding longer has benefits that last a lifetime. Research shows breastfeeding reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers for mothers and helps prevent babies from developing allergies, respiratory conditions, ear infections, some childhood cancers, diabetes, obesity and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
According to the federal Office on Women’s Health, the United States could avoid nearly 1,000 deaths and more than $2 billion dollars in medical costs each year if most mothers gave their babies only mother’s milk for the first six months.
The state health department, national health care organizations and doctors recommend women feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months, if medically possible. After six months, mothers should aim to continue breastfeeding while offering solid foods until their babies are at least a year old or older.
The department works with hospitals, food assistance programs, local public health, child care providers and community groups to promote and support breastfeeding.
- Nutrition assistance: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides breastfeeding education, counseling, classes, support groups and breast pumps.
- Hospitals: The health department’s successful “Colorado Can Do 5!” initiative recognized 41 of the state’s 53 maternity hospitals for following five of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Now it is working with 17 hospitals in a collaborative covering half of all Colorado births to earn Baby-Friendly Hospital designation for implementing all Ten Steps.
- Workplace: State law requires employers to provide mothers time and a private place to breastfeed or express milk at work. This year, the state health department contracted with four local health departments to increase worksite and child care breastfeeding support over the next three years.
- Child care: The health department is developing a toolkit of resources for Colorado child care providers based on needs identified in a 2014 survey.
Help is available to enable more women to reach ideal breastfeeding goals from maternity hospital staff; health care professionals, including lactation consultants; public health nurses; WIC staff; and community breastfeeding support groups.