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Health & Families

Three-quarters of US babies breastfed: study

Three million US newborns, or three-quarters of all infants born in 2007, began life breastfeeding, meeting a national health goal set for 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday.

But six and 12 months down the line, the number of babies who were still nursing fell off sharply: only 43 percent of babies, or 1.8 million infants, were still breastfeeding at six months and less than a quarter were doing so at 12 months, the CDC said in a report.

The 2007 breastfeeding rate is nearly three times greater than in 1980, when just 28 percent of newborns were breastfed, fewer than one in 10 were still nursing at six months of age and only 4.5 percent were breastfeeding at a year of age, data from the CDC's Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance survey show.

In 2000, less than half of newborns were breastfed, fewer than one in five were still nursing at six months and just one in nine was breastfed at 12 months.

Breast milk is easy to digest and contains antibodies that can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections, and breast-fed babies are less likely to become overweight or obese children than babies who are bottle-fed, according to the CDC.

The agency's Healthy People 2010 initiative aims to get three-quarters of mothers to nurse their babies from birth, 50 percent to continue until the infant is six months old, and a quarter to keep nursing until the baby reaches 12 months of age.

Launched 30 years ago, the Healthy People 2010 effort aims to increase the quality and years of healthy life and eliminate health disparities in the United States by achieving nearly 500 objectives in 28 areas, including maternal and child health.