Breast-feeding still a challenge for NC moms

UNC report card finds majority of women who do not breastfeed cite personal preference

Breast-feeding still a challenge for NC moms click to enlarge Breast-feeding rates are just one area of women's health reported within the 2014 North Carolina Women's Health Report Card.

The number of mothers initiating breast-feeding after the birth of their child is high in North Carolina, however drops off significantly within four-weeks according to the 2014 North Carolina Women's Health Report Card released May 12.

The document is a progress report on the health and health care needs of North Carolina's 5+ million women produced by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Center for Women's Health Research (CWHR).

Data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s 2011 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System found 82.7 percent of mothers initiated breast-feeding, but by week four only 49.2 percent were still exclusively breast-feeding. By week eight the number dropped further to 35.5 percent.

“The majority of women who do not breastfeed cite personal preference,” said Dr. Catherine Sullivan, Clinical Instructor & Director of Training at UNC’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute.

The following reasons were given by women choosing not to breast-feed, or who decided to stop:

  • Other children to take care of: 20.2%
  • Was sick or on medicine: 13.6%
  • Too many household duties: 20.5%
  • Went back to work or school: 20.5%
  • Wanted body to herself: 12.2%
  • Tried but was too hard: 10.2%
  • Did not like breast-feeding: 37.7%
  • Did not want to breast-feed: 48.5%
  • Other unspecified reasons: 11.2%

Dr. Heather Wasser, Project Director for the Mothers and Others nutrition-intervention study at UNC, says continued efforts in education and support could have an impact on North Carolina breastfeeding trends so that breastfeeding becomes more of a social norm.

“Key recommended strategies,” stated Wasser, who is also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), “…include increasing access to peer and professional breastfeeding support before, during and after the hospital stay; increasing the number of hospital and birthing facilities that establish breastfeeding as the normative way to feed an infant; increasing the number of workplace settings with lactation support programs; and enacting legislation that supports breastfeeding, such as increasing the availability and amount of paid family medical leave.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that infants should be breast-fed exclusively up to six months. Appropriate foods may be introduced at six months and breast-feeding should be continued through one year or as mutually desired by mother and infant.

“While there is much buzz around the benefits for children, often the benefits to women are overlooked,” said Sullivan. “Quite simply, breastfeeding saves lives. Women who choose to breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Breastfeeding is primary prevention and a public health imperative.”

The report card is distributed to medical and public health professionals, policy makers, researchers and women's health advocacy groups throughout the state. Data was compiled from state health behavior surveys, vital statistics, disease reporting systems, and US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau reports.  Preventive health, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, perinatal health, mental health and substance abuse are the key measures examined. It is the only health report of its kind in North Carolina.

The mission of CWHR is to improve women’s health through research by focusing on diseases, disorders and conditions that affect women only, women predominately, and/or women differently than men. Research efforts that require the most attention are identified through the collection and analysis of data for the report card. Current areas of research targeted by the Center include perinatal health, cancers affecting women, obesity, diabetes, women’s cardiovascular health, women’s mental health and substance abuse.

A full copy the 2014 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card may be downloaded at

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