DOI: 10.1101/451435Oct 26, 2018Paper

Feeding the disparities: the geography and trends of breastfeeding in the United States

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Romain GarnierShweta Bansal


There is scientific consensus on the importance of breastfeeding for the present and future health of newborns, in high- and low-income settings alike. In the United States, improving breast milk access is a public health priority but analysis of secular trends are largely lacking. Here, we used data from the National Immunization Survey of the CDC, collected between 2003 and 2016, to illustrate the temporal trends and the spatial heterogeneity in breastfeeding. We also considered the effect sizes of two key determinants of breastfeeding rates. We show that, while access to breast milk both at birth and at 6 months old has steadily increased over the past decade, large spatial disparities still remain at the state level. We also find that, since 2009, the proportion of households below the poverty level has become the strongest predictor of breastfeeding rates. We argue that, because variations in breastfeeding rates are associated with socio-economic factors, public health policies advocating for breastfeeding are still needed in particular in underserved communities. This is key to reducing longer term health disparities in the U.S., and more generally in high-income countries.

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