Moms plan to breast-feed for three months but don’t, study says

While the recent conversation springing from Time magazine’s cover was about nursing into toddlerhood and beyond, studies have shown that most mothers in the United States do not breast-feed their babies for the six months that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

But the question remained: What did new moms plan? So researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked women their intentions about breast-feeding and then surveyed them each month for a year.

Eighty-five percent of the women who planned to exclusively breast-feed their babies intended to do so for three months or longer. But only 32% of them did so, the researchers said. Women who were married, and women who already had another child, were more likely to do what they intended.

Also helpful in getting new moms to their nursing goals were some of the practices that are part of the “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative,” developed in 1991 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund: beginning breast-feeding within an hour of giving birth and babies not getting formula or pacifiers in the hospital.

Women who had breast-feeding intentions longer than three months, who were obese or who smoked were less likely to meet their goals, the researchers said. The researchers concluded that hospital practices that would help include giving babies only breast milk.


Their research was published Monday in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The majority of the women in the study were 25 to 34 years old, white, married and had some education after high school. About half were overweight or obese, and a third took part in the food aid program called WIC. The researchers noted that their sample was not nationally representative but rather drawn from a consumer opinion mail panel.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that for the first six months of a baby’s life mothers breast-feed exclusively -- meaning that only breast milk and medications be given.