Report: Breastfeeding in Illinois Hinges Partly on Race, Income
Almost half of African-American mothers in Illinois never breastfeed their newborns, according to a report by state and university researchers and a nonprofit group called HealthConnect One.
Among new black mothers in 2008, about 45 percent did not start breastfeeding their infants, according to the report, "Illinois Breastfeeding Blueprint: A Plan for Change." That figure compares to 21 percent for whites, 14 percent for Latinas and three percent for Asian-Americans.
The report also shows income disparities. The rate of low-income white mothers in the state who never started breastfeeding babies born in 2008 was 36 percent.
"Hospitals should be doing more to encourage breastfeeding," said University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologist Deborah Rosenberg, who analyzed data for the report.
Looking at all new Illinois mothers, the report says the number who did start breastfeeding was almost 78 percent by 2008 - up about eight percent from 2000. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a national goal of almost 82 percent by 2020.
Starting breastfeeding does not mean keeping at it. Twelve weeks after giving birth, just 47 percent of Illinois mothers were breastfeeding, according to the report. Of those, almost half were not breastfeeding exclusively.
"Many women go back to work then," Rosenberg said. "It means that employers need to be supportive of breastfeeding."
Rosenberg said resources for lactation consultants and peer counselors are also falling short.
HealthConnect One, based in Chicago, published the report Monday in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services and the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health.
Next month the group and its partners plan to begin formulating a five-year action plan for hospitals, government agencies, employers, insurers and community groups.
Federal health officials say breastfeeding helps babies avoid obesity, infections and chronic diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months.