A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says today that fewer than half of mothers breastfeed their babies as long as advised, and only 22 percent of moms are still breastfeeding at one year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding until six months and breast milk plus solid food until one year. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to two years and beyond.
What I found interesting is that the study showed most moms (75 percent) start breastfeeding their newborn, but the numbers drop off quickly as the months go on. The study didn’t specify why so many moms switch, but I could venture a guess: it’s painful and way more difficult than most people (myself included) expect in the beginning; it’s time consuming and if you’re working, incredibly hard to keep up your milk supply with pumping; milk supplies vary and some moms simply don’t have enough.
But I think something else throws off moms who might otherwise want to keep nursing: baby’s weight.
The breastfed baby naturally gets a little trimmer after about three months, but some pediatricians use growth charts that are not representative of a breastfed baby’s growth patterns. At the three month check up, a lot of breastfed babies drop in the percentiles and it raises a red flag–she was 60th in weight but now she’s 30th! It feels like failing a test.
How your baby stacks up on the growth charts depends on who she’s being compared with, and if the chart uses a formula-fed population as a guide, a breastfed baby might look unnecessarily slim. Also, as we know, a weigh-in at the pediatrician’s office is not a test (tell that to my husband, who always waited eagerly to hear if our son had held is ground).
How long to breastfeed is up to each mom-baby duo, and there are so many factors that go into the decision. But I think the weight charts play a role.
Interestingly, breastfeeding differed widely by state: 90 percent of babies in Utah are nursed, compared to 52.5 percent in Mississippi!
Image: Flickr/Nerrisa’s ring
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