According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card the correct answer is C. 21% of Texan women are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. Texas ranks 36th in the nation, falling below the national average of 22.3%. These numbers, although slightly higher than in the past, are lackluster considering the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation is for babies to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. Additionally, they advise moms to continue breastfeeding for at least 1 year. The Healthy People 2020 goal was for 60.6% of babies to be breastfeeding at 6 months old. Only 12 states managed to meet this landmark. Obviously, Texas was not one of them.
But breastfeeding initiation rates are higher than ever. In Texas 81.9% of women have breastfed. This is even higher than the national average of 81.1%. So why does the number plummet at 6 months of age?
Obviously women are receiving the message and want to breastfeed! But let’s face it, breastfeeding is hard. Successfully breastfeeding requires a lot of education and support. The real culprit is not a lack of desire, but obstacles, like misguided policies concerning maternity leave, getting in the way. Women lack the breastfeeding help they need. There are not enough lactation consultants to go around, and only those who can afford it have access to services to preserve breastfeeding. The taboo of public breastfeeding leaves women feeling as though they have to stay homebound or bottle feed their baby. God forbid they do both.
The contrast is even more glaring in communities of color. This population is the most vulnerable, and have even less access to breastfeeding support and education than their white counterparts. African-American women have consistently had the lowest breastfeeding rates and the highest infant mortality rates. Yet African American women are less likely to get breastfeeding help in the hospital. This is compounded by less access to breastfeeding support within their communities. We have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. But we will get to where we need to be one latch at a time.