About a month ago while talking to one of my friends who is a new mom and lives in Brazil, she asked me about the breastfeeding statistics here in the U.S. and how acceptable was to supplement breastfed babies with formula.
Even though I breastfed my daughter for the first 6 months almost exclusively (I only supplemented with formula for a couple of weeks when I was having breastfeeding complications) and continued breastfeeding until she was 30 months old, I know that it is not a common thing to do. Some of my friends only breastfed for the first 3 months (supplementing with formula) and others went straight to formula without even trying to breastfeed.
Based on my circle of friends, the large majority only breastfed for the first 3 months and they didn't feel any pressure to do it longer nor saw any problem in supplementing with formula when necessary.
To give my Brazilian friend a correct answer based on facts and not only on my experience, I researched these topics and found this statistics:
The Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention's 2011 breastfeeding report card (CDC), shows that in the U.S. National:
- 74.6% were ever breastfed
- 44.3% were still breastfeeding at 6 months
- 23.8% were still breastfeeding at 12 months
- 35.0% were exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months
- 14.8% were exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months
They also show on their CDC National Immunization Survey (Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 2000—2008), that:
- approximately 25% of the breastfed children were supplemented with infant formula before they were 2 days old
- approximately 38% of the breastfed children were supplemented with infant formula before they were 3 months old
- approximately 45% of the breastfed children were supplemented with infant formula before they were 6 months old
On the World Health Organization (WHO) Infant and Young Child Feeding Data by Country chart, you can see the difference between the breastfeeding statistics between Countries. For example, in Brazil (2006-07):
- 96.4% were ever breastfed
- 49.0% were exclusive breastfeeding at 4 months
- 39.8% were exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months
In Brazil they have a large breastfeeding campaign. They have prime time commercials showing famous actresses breastfeeding their babies and talking about the benefits of it. To help promote breastfeeding they have recently extended the maternity leave from 120 days to 180 days (On the United Nation Statistics Division website you can find a table with a list of all countries showing the length of the maternity leave and the percentage of wage paid in the covered period. The maternity leave varies from 7 weeks in Lebanon to 480 days in Sweden).
There is no question that exclusive breastfeeding is the most complete and healthy form of nutrition a baby can have it, but it is CERTAINLY not easy to do it.
Picture source: Daquella Maneira