Rates of breastfeeding are increasing,
but barriers still exist.

Over the last few decades, rates of breastfeeding have steadily increased.

Even among a low-income Texas population in which rates are traditionally lower, more than 83 percent of new Texas mothers choose to begin their baby's life with breastfeeding – up from 71 percent in January, 2007.iii Yet despite clear intention to breastfeed, only 16.8 percent of Texas babies are exclusively breastfed at six months of life as recommended.ii

But most babies are not exclusively breastfed.

Although breastmilk is the only nutrition most babies need for the first six months, many infants receive other foods or liquids before this age. In fact, almost half of breastfed newborns received supplemental feedings with infant formula while they were still in the hospital after birth.v This exposes infants to unnecessary risk and reduces the potent immune protection that breastmilk offers.

Numerous barriers to breastfeeding still exist...

At Home

Women whose partners, mothers, and friends are supportive of breastfeeding are more likely to choose to breastfeed and to be successful in carrying out their breastfeeding goals. On the other hand, negative attitudes of family and friends can pose a barrier.

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At Work

Employed mothers often return to work within weeks after birth. At the same time, their bodies may still be establishing a milk supply and recovering from birth. They and their families may still be adjusting to the demands of caring for a newborn.

Many find that returning to work is a significant barrier to breastfeeding. Women can face challenges in scheduling breaks and accessing private, hygienic locations for breastfeeding or expressing milk to maintain lactation while they are separated from their babies during the work day. They may have no place to store expressed breastmilk, experience difficulty in finding child-care facilities at or near the workplace, face fears over job insecurity, and have limited maternity leave benefits. Their newborn's child-care provider may lack knowledge about how to care for infants in a way that is supportive of breastfeeding.

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In Health Care

Most women in the United States are aware that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies, but often they are not instructed about its specific benefits and the risks associated with not breastfeeding.

Women and their babies who encounter common breastfeeding problems early on, such as pain, ineffective latch, or insufficient milk supply, are less likely to continue breastfeeding unless they get professional support to prevent or correct these issues.

Studies have shown improvements in hospital policies and clinical practices are needed. In 2013, only 3.4% of Texas births occurred in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies.vi

Health-care professionals often receive little training in breastfeeding, and many feel unprepared to provide accurate, helpful information to support their patients. Some rely on their own experiences or opinions to shape the counseling they provide. These barriers prevent patients from receiving consistently accurate information about breastfeeding techniques, current health recommendations, and strategies to meet personal breastfeeding goals.

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In Public and Social Environments

In the United States, bottle-feeding is still considered by many as the most normal or appropriate way to feed an infant. Inaccurate or negative perceptions or attitudes about breastfeeding are still common in popular culture and the media, and exposure to marketing of breastmilk substitutes, such as infant formula, is widespread and pervasive. Misinformation is common about the adequacy and sufficiency of breastmilk and the timing for introduction of other foods.

Though most Texas adults believe that women should have the right to breastfeed discretely in public places,vii many mothers have been criticized for breastfeeding in public, asked to stop breastfeeding, or even to leave.

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