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Breastfeeding: Trends, Promotion, Determinants, and Implications

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Breast milk is the ideal food to start with. Read below to learn more about the evolution and changes in breastfeeding practices.

Written by

Dr. Sanchana. N

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Published At October 3, 2023
Reviewed AtOctober 3, 2023

Breastfeeding trends refer to the patterns or changes in breastfeeding practices among mothers and infants over time. Breastfeeding trends can be influenced by various factors, including changes in healthcare services, societal norms, policies and regulations, marketing and advertising, and public health campaigns.

Why Promotions Are Needed for Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding promotion has been a key factor in driving positive breastfeeding trends. Breastfeeding promotion involves a variety of strategies to educate and support mothers and caregivers in making informed decisions about breastfeeding. Some of these strategies include:

  • Healthcare Provider Education and Training: Healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants, play a crucial role in promoting breastfeeding. By educating and supporting mothers about breastfeeding practices, healthcare providers can help increase breastfeeding rates and promote positive breastfeeding outcomes.

  • Public Health Campaigns: Public health campaigns, such as the World Health Organization's world breastfeeding week, can raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and help reduce the stigma around breastfeeding in public. These campaigns can also provide resources and information to help mothers succeed in their breastfeeding goals.

  • Policy and Regulation: Policies and regulations can help promote breastfeeding by providing workplace accommodations for breastfeeding mothers, requiring insurance coverage for lactation support and equipment, and regulating the marketing and advertising of infant formula.

  • Community Support: Peer support groups and community organizations can provide valuable support and resources for breastfeeding mothers.

  • Media and Marketing: Positive portrayals of breastfeeding in media and marketing can help normalize breastfeeding and reduce the stigma around breastfeeding in public.

Overall, promoting breastfeeding has been instrumental in driving positive breastfeeding trends by providing support and resources to mothers and caregivers to make informed decisions about breastfeeding.

However, here are some trends and statistics related to breastfeeding:

  1. More mothers are choosing to breastfeed their infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, 84.1 % of infants born in the United States started out breastfeeding, compared to 76.5 % in 2010.

  2. Longer periods of breastfeeding are becoming more common. The same CDC report stated that 57.6 % of mothers were still breastfeeding at six months, and 35.9 % were still breastfeeding at 12 months.

  3. Exclusive breastfeeding (meaning the baby receives only breast milk, with no formula or solid foods) is also on the rise. In 2018, 24.9 % of infants were exclusively breastfed for six months, compared to 16.4 % in 2010.

  4. Workplace policies and accommodations for breastfeeding mothers are improving. Many companies now offer lactation rooms or other accommodations for nursing mothers, and the Affordable Care Act mandates that employers provide breastfeeding support and equipment for nursing mothers.

  5. The societal stigma surrounding breastfeeding in public is slowly decreasing as more mothers advocate for their rights to breastfeed and share their experiences on social media.

What Are the Determinants of Breastfeeding?

The factors that determine the higher rate of breastfeeding are:

  • Maternal education and knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding.

  • Social and cultural norms around breastfeeding.

  • Availability of skilled breastfeeding support and healthcare services.

  • Maternal employment and access to workplace accommodations.

  • Marketing and distribution of infant formula.

  • Media and public health campaigns promoting the benefits and importance of breastfeeding.

  • Family and community support for breastfeeding.

  • Prior breastfeeding experience and confidence.

  • Infant health and medical conditions.

  • Structural factors, such as poverty and access to resources that may impact a mother's ability to breastfeed.

With the help of the above-mentioned factors, the mother can be influenced to breastfeed in a positive manner by breaking all the odds of breastfeeding practices.

However, here are some strategies that have been suggested to encourage and support positive breastfeeding trends:

  • Increase access to education and information about the benefits of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding.

  • Improve the availability and accessibility of skilled breastfeeding support and healthcare services, particularly in low-income communities.

  • Implement family-friendly policies and workplace accommodations that support breastfeeding mothers.

  • Address social and cultural norms that may discourage or stigmatize breastfeeding.

  • Strengthen public health campaigns and marketing efforts that promote the importance of breastfeeding.

  • Increase community and family support for breastfeeding mothers.

  • Address structural factors, such as poverty and access to resources that may impact a mother's ability to breastfeed.

  • Encourage healthcare providers to support and promote breastfeeding and to educate families about the benefits and importance of breastfeeding.

  • Monitor and track breastfeeding rates and trends, and use this information to guide policy and program development.

  • Work collaboratively across sectors, including healthcare, public health, policy, and community organizations, to promote and support breastfeeding.

Conclusion

The first six months of the life of the infant should be spent exclusively on breastfeeding because it has numerous health advantages for both mother and child. However, the rates of universal breastfeeding are well below optimal, and there are numerous obstacles to breastfeeding, including personal factors (such as maternal age, education level, and getting pregnant again), sociocultural barriers (such as misconceptions about inadequate breast milk or breastfeeding in public), healthcare-related barriers (such as a lack of qualified professionals to support breastfeeding in new mothers), and workplace-related barriers (such as short meetings). Therefore, breastfeeding practices can be improved by implementing policies that support ideal breastfeeding practices at the individual, family, community, and governmental levels, as per the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

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Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Pediatrics

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breastfeeding
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