Indiana gets low marks in another health category—breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding is considered the healthiest and most natural way to feed a newborn. But Indiana isn't keeping up with most of the country.

According to the latest annual report card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Aug. 20, Indiana lags the nation in the rate of infants who are ever breastfed and those who are breastfed through at least six months.

That might not be too surprising for a state that also gets low marks for other unhealthy behaviors, from smoking and drinking to obesity and drug abuse.

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of complementary foods for at least one year.

Across the United States, 83.2 percent of infants receive at least some breast milk, compared to just 78.8 percent of Indiana infants. That makes Indiana 43rd out of 50 states, the District of Columbus, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The numbers fall when it comes measuring the percentage of infants who are breastfed for six months: just 57.6 percent nationally, and 53.3 percent in Indiana. That makes the Hoosier state 37th in the nation.

And the numbers fall even further when it comes to measuring the percentage of infants who are breastfed exclusively through six months: 24.9 percent nationally. In Indiana, it’s a bit higher, at 31.7 percent—but that’s still less than one-third of Hoosier infants.

According to the CDC: “High breastfeeding initiating rates show that most mothers in the United States want to breastfeed and start out doing so.”

But the drop off over time suggests something else, according to the CDC: “These rates suggest that mothers may not be getting the support they need from health care providers, family members and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals. … To reach their breastfeeding goals, mothers need continuity of care, which is achieved by consistent, collaborative and high-quality breastfeeding services and support.”

Despite the low rates, Indiana is improving. From 2013 to 2016, the percentage of infants who were exclusively breastfed through six months nearly doubled, from 13.8 percent to 26.8 percent.

So yes, that's a significant increase, but still far short of the goal.

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