PUBLISHED: 1:19 PM on Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Variety of reasons for increase in breast-feeding

Courtesy photo
  Mothers cite embarrassment, lack of support and time considerations as reasons not to breast-feed.
Campaigns to promote breast-feeding have been seen everywhere from doctors' offices to shopping centers in recent years, and now the effort's effects are showing up somewhere new - national polls.

The Center for Disease Control released a study Monday that said the overall rate of breast-feeding among recent births rose to 67 percent in 2002, up from 55 percent in 1995. The increase in black families was most pronounced, rising to 47 percent from 25 percent.

Jane Miller, breast-feeding coordinator with the Women Infant and Children's Program in Grand Island, said she's not surprised by the results. Locally, the programs have gone well and yielded results, but nationally she's seen a sense of synchronicity among different efforts.

"People are getting the same message everywhere they go, and that's pretty powerful," Miller said. "If WIC was trying to do it all on our own, we wouldn't succeed. When everyone agrees that breast-feeding is in the best interest of children in general, people get the same message."

The unified message that "breast-feeding is best," hasn't always been in place. In fact, Miller said, years ago breast-feeding was treated the same as alternatives that have since proven less healthy for babies.

"I remember 20 years ago with WIC, we would tell parents that formula was comparable to breast-feeding," she said. "It's not."

Part of what impresses Miller about the new numbers and the efforts in general is the across-the-board acceptance of breast-feeding, and how this area has managed to overcome certain obstacles that mothers identify as problems in breast-feeding.

For example, mothers cite embarrassment, lack of support and time considerations as reasons not to breast-feed.

Miller said the unified theme has helped make breast-feeding more accepted, and different support groups in several languages have also helped make it easier.

"We have a ways to go, don't get me wrong, but we have a lot of support compared to some places," she said. "What strikes me is the highest percentage of breast-feeding takes place with high income families on the East and West Coast. That's not us, but we have a lot of community support. That's made a difference."

The study by the CDC also showed:

• U.S. women of childbearing age who were surveyed in 2002 revealed that 14 percent of their recent births were unwanted at the time of conception. In a similar 1995 survey, only 9 percent were unwanted at the time of conception.

• About 42 percent of women in 2002 said they never married, up from 38 percent in 1995.

• About 50 percent of women in 2002 said they had lived with a man in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, up from 41 percent of women in the 1995 survey.