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Breastfeeding Rates on the Rise in the U.S.

Update Date: Aug 01, 2013 12:38 AM EDT

More moms are breastfeeding than ever before, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Wednesday.

Almost 50 percent of babies are still being breast-fed at least sometime at 6 months of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's up from 35 percent in 2000.

More hospitals are enabling and encouraging mothers and babies to stay closer together after birth which is essential for the breastfeeding rate to continue to rise. Meanwhile, breastfeeding climbed to 49 percent in 2010, and the 27 percent of babies still breastfeeding at 12 months was up from 16 percent over that same decade.

Breastfeeding could save more than $2 billion in annual medical costs if all recommendations were met, researchers calculated. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and that mothers continue to breastfeed in combination with complementary foods until age 12 months.

"The period right after a baby is born is a critical time for establishing breast-feeding," Janet Collins, director of CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, said in an agency news release.

The findings are "great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breast-fed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breast-feed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers," added CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.

Frieden pointed out, "breast-feeding lowers health care costs. Researchers have calculated that $2.2 billion in yearly medical costs could be saved if breast-feeding recommendations were met. It is critical that we continue working to improve hospital, community and workplace support for breast-feeding mothers and babies, and realize these cost savings."

"We know that more breastfeeding means healthier moms and healthier babies," said CDC researcher Jessica Allen.

Around three-quarters of babies in the United States start out breastfeeding, but by six months, only 15 percent exclusively breastfeed, the CDC data noted.

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