Today, August 1, marks the start of World Breastfeeding Week, a time when organizations and communities bring attention to the benefits of breastfeeding and offer moms support and encouragement to be successful at breastfeeding. The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office on Women's Health (OWH) and Office of Minority Health(OMH) are pleased to join together in recognizing this week and supporting women who want to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective measures that a mother can take to improve health outcomes for herself and her baby. Babies who breastfeed have a lower risk of ear and lower respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of breast cancers, and ovarian cancers, and postpartum depression.
More moms are choosing to breastfeed. In 2010, 77 percent of all babies in the U.S. were ever breastfed, up from 70 percent in 2000. We are also seeing gains among African-American babies who have ever breastfed. Survey data from 2010 show that 62 percent of African-American babies were ever breastfed, compared with only 47 percent in 2000. While rates of breastfeeding are still lower among African-American moms, we are encouraged by this improvement.
To support African-American women in overcoming the barriers they face to start and continue breastfeeding, HHS launched a new campaign, It's Only Natural, earlier this year. It's Only Natural provides these new moms with practical information, such as the benefits of breastfeeding and how they can make it work in their lives.
The Affordable Care Act requires coverage of breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment without copays for breastfeeding moms. The Health Insurance Marketplace, opening in October, will be an important tool to help women, whether uninsured or wanting to explore new options to find health coverage that meets their needs and the needs of their babies.
We hope World Breastfeeding Week will ignite conversations around breastfeeding to help women feel supported in their breastfeeding efforts.
To learn more about the It's Only Natural campaign, visit www.womenshealth.gov/ItsOnlyNatural.
To learn more about breastfeeding, visit www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding.