WE CAN STILL DO BETTER Number of breast-fed children in U.S. remains lower than most countries

For an industrialized nation, the United States needs a lot more changes and support in its breast-feeding culture. The amount of breast-fed children, even if they only nursed one time, has increased from 70.9 to 73.9 percent since the beginning of the last decade. Compared to many other developed nations, however, this country is lacking.

The U.S. has done a better job supporting nursing mothers than countries like Ireland and France, whose breast-feeding levels hover at or below the 60 percent mark, according to recent World Health Organization statistics.

In countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the atmosphere is much more accommodating for a breast-feeding culture.

With percentages in the upper 90s, almost all infants in these countries have been breast-fed at some point. These higher percentages have been attributed to high amount time and money government gives parents and children, especially through national health care plans with comfortably long (almost a year) paid leave for both mother and father.

In most countries, both developing and industrialized, the percentage of children ever being breast-fed is above 90 percent, and the U.S. is much lower than that. The numbers regarding exclusive breast-feeding do, however, seem to show more similarities between countries. WHO and UNICEF, among other organizations and specialists, suggest that new mothers breast-feed exclusively for the first six months after a child is born, but many mothers struggle to follow that advice for that long. 13.6 percent of children are still exclusively breast-fed up to 6 months in the U.S., 18 percent are still exclusively fed in Sweden and 17 percent are still exclusively fed in Vietnam.

The U.S. is still trying to build up a sturdier breast-feeding community through initiatives like Breast-feeding Awareness Month. For the U.S. and many other countries, part of a child’s development can be both a shared endeavor and a continued impetus for improvement.

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