December 16, 2010
2 min read

Healthy People 2020 goals include support of breast-feeding

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The barriers to breast-feeding are being addressed at the highest level of government, with the release of Healthy People 2020. The US Department of Health and Human Services has targeted the new 10-year goals for the nation’s health, and among these goals is supporting breast-feeding.

“This is a major step forward for mothers and babies,” Gerald Calnen, MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, said in a news release. “For decades, we’ve been telling mothers to try harder. With the Healthy People 2020 goals, we are actually helping mothers to succeed.”

The new public health initiatives address maternity care and workplace accommodations for nursing mothers, two major obstacles for breast-feeding mothers.

Findings from a recent CDC survey demonstrated that maternity centers earned an average grade of 65% for infant-feeding care, and only 3.8% of US births occurred in facilities that earned Baby Friendly certification. Baby Friendly facilities meet standards set by UNICEF and WHO for high-quality breast-feeding care, according to information in the news release.

The goals aim to increase the percentage of Baby Friendly hospitals to 8% and to increase the proportion of US workplaces that accommodate working mothers to express milk or breast-feed their infants during the workday from 25% to 38%.

The goals also call for formula supplementation for healthy newborn infants during the maternity hospital stay. In 2006, 26% of healthy breast-fed newborns were fed formula in the hospital; the 2020 goals aim to decrease this rate to 15%.

The new 2020 public health goals also set targets for initiation and continuation of breast-feeding. Currently, 75% of babies born in the US are initially breast-fed, but rates decrease to 43% by 6 months and to 22% by 12 months. The AAP recommends that infants be fed only breast milk for the first 6 months of life, but only 13% of American infants meet this standard.

Healthy People 2020 aims to increase breast-feeding rates to 82% “ever breast-fed,” 61% at 6 months and 34% at 1 year; exclusive breast-feeding goals are set for 44% by 3 months and 24% at 6 months.

“By making maternity care and workplace support part of the Healthy People 2020 goals, policymakers are recognizing what mothers already know,” Calnen said. “We need to change the system so that hospitals, employers and the general public work together to empower mothers to achieve the best infant-feeding goals.”

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