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Breastfeeding on the increase in the US

The number of mothers in the US choosing to breastfeed their babies is on the rise, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC data reveals that within a 10-year period between 2000 and 2010, babies who were first breastfed rose 6%, from 71% in 2000 to 77% in 2010.

The percentage of babies breastfed at 6 months increased 14%, from 35% in 2000 to 49% in 2010, while the percentage of babies breastfed at 12 months increased 11% during the same period, from 16% in 2000 to 27% in 2010.

Alongside these results, the data reveals that the percentage of hospitals using "key maternity practices," which enables mothers and babies to be kept together following birth, has also increased.

The data shows that the percentage of hospitals reporting newborn babies staying in the same room as their mother for a minimum of 23 hours each day has increased 7%, from 30% in 2007 to 37% in 2011.

Additionally, the percentage of hospitals where the majority of newborns had "skin-to-skin" contact with their mother directly after birth increased 13%, from 41% in 2007 to 54% in 2011.

The CDC says that these results may be contributing to increased breastfeeding rates.

Janet L. Collins, director of the CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, says:

"The period right after a baby is born is a critical time for establishing breastfeeding.

'Rooming in' and skin-to-skin contact help ensure that mothers and babies stay together and are able to start and continue breastfeeding. These are meaningful steps hospitals can take to support mothers and families and help improve breastfeeding rates."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a mother conduct exclusive breastfeeding (breast milk only) for the first 6 months of a baby's life. After this time, they recommend breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary foods for a minimum of 12 months of age.

Breastfeeding is said to be a natural and beneficial source of nutrition for an infant, and is also reported to provide numerous health benefits for the mother. Therefore, the CDC says the increase in the number of mothers choosing to breastfeed is positive.

Tom Frieden, director at the CDC, says of the data:

"This is great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers."

"Rooming in" and skin-to-skin contact help ensure breastfeeding starts and continues, CDC says

Previous research has also uncovered other potential breastfeeding benefits. blog recently reported that researchers from Boston's Children Hospital discovered that breastfeeding for longer may improve a child's intelligence later in life.

Other research from University College London in the UK suggests that breastfeeding can boost the child's ability to interact socially later in adulthood.

Frieden adds that breastfeeding also helps to lower health care costs. He says:

"Researchers have calculated that $2.2 billion in yearly medical costs could be saved if breastfeeding recommendations were met.

It is critical that we continue working to improve hospital, community and workplace support for breastfeeding mothers and babies and realize these cost savings."

More focus is on breastfeeding than ever, as World Breastfeeding Week kicks-off on Friday.

One medical center, The Springfield-Green County Health Department, will be conducting a series of events, including "The Big Latch On."

This involves mothers attending the center to breastfeed their child for 1 minute, with a goal of breaking previous "Latch On" records of the number of mothers breastfeeding at the same time.

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