August 28, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 036-15
Friday, August 28, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Veronica Lewin:
(347) 396-4177, pressoffice@health.nyc.gov

New Health Department Report Reveals Disparities in Breastfeeding Trends in New York City

Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer medical problems, such as respiratory illness and ear infections

The Health Department has introduced community-based initiatives to address breastfeeding disparities, including home visiting and the Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone

August 28, 2015 - In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month and Black Breastfeeding Week, the Health Department released new data (PDF) on breastfeeding trends in New York City. The data show that babies born to women of color and from high-poverty neighborhoods in New York City are less likely to exclusively breastfeed during the first five days after giving birth. In 2013, babies born to mothers from low-poverty neighborhoods were 1.6 times more likely to be exclusively breastfed within the first five days of birth compared with babies from high-poverty neighborhoods.

“We know that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies in the first six months, but our data show that breastfeeding rates differ dramatically by neighborhood and social factors such as income, race, and ethnicity,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Too many New York City mothers stop breastfeeding within a few weeks after childbirth. It is critical for community members and leaders, elected officials, hospitals and employers to work together to remove barriers to breastfeeding, especially in high-poverty neighborhoods and communities of color.”

Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer medical problems such as respiratory illness and ear infections. Additionally, studies suggest that mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer and cardiovascular disease. Despite this, in New York City there are persistent disparities in breastfeeding rates, differing by race and ethnicity, poverty, neighborhood poverty, education and age. Among the recent findings in the new Epi Data Brief (PDF):

  • In 2013, babies born to mothers from low poverty neighborhoods were 1.6 times more likely to be exclusively breastfed within the first five days of birth compared with babies from high poverty neighborhoods (41 percent vs. 25 percent).
  • Non-Hispanic White mothers were more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies within the first five days of birth compared with Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black mothers (44 percent vs. 24 percent, 26 percent and 27 percent, respectively).
  • Mothers with less than a high school education had lower breastfeeding rates at eight weeks postpartum compared with college graduates (23 percent vs. 31 percent for exclusive breastfeeding and 60 percent vs. 80 percent for some breastfeeding).
  • For every 100 New York City mothers receiving WIC, a national nutritional program for low-income mothers, babies and children, 38 breastfed for at least six months; of those only five breastfed exclusively.

As part of a multifaceted strategy to promote breastfeeding, the Health Department collaborates with maternity hospitals and birthing centers to promote breastfeeding through the New York City Breastfeeding Hospital Collaborative and the Latch On NYC initiative. As part of Latch On NYC, the Health Department works with hospitals to support mothers who choose to breastfeed, reduce formula supplementation to healthy breastfed infants during the hospital stay, and discontinue distribution of promotional or free infant formula that can interfere with a mother’s choice to breastfeed.

In addition, the New York City Breastfeeding Hospital Collaborative works to increase the number of maternity facilities that are designated as WHO/UNICEF “Baby-Friendly” - a special recognition to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding and have successfully implemented the  Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the  International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes .

The Health Department has also introduced community-based initiatives to address breastfeeding disparities, including home visiting through the Newborn Home Visiting Program and the Nurse-Family Partnership, and the Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which trains and empowers community members to support breastfeeding parents and families.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with complementary foods until at least one year of age. However, many mothers face barriers to continued and exclusive breastfeeding. For example, hospital practices can influence mothers’ breastfeeding decisions and behaviors. Healthy breastfed babies who are fed formula in the hospital are less likely to be breastfed beyond six weeks. However, in 2013, 63 percent of healthy breastfeeding babies in New York City were introduced to formula while they were in the hospital. One in four New York City hospitals (25 percent) introduced formula to most or all (80 to 100 percent) healthy breastfeeding babies. Healthy People 2020 aims to reduce the proportion of healthy breastfeeding babies introduced to formula in the first two days of life to 14.2 percent.

###