Oklahoma babies are breast-fed at some of the lowest rates in the nation, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
About 71 percent of Oklahoma babies in 2013 were ever breast-fed, lower than the national average of about 79 percent of babies, according to the report.
Overall, Oklahoma’s breast-feeding rates in 2013 were lower than a majority of states in each category the CDC included in the report.
“It says a lot about the health of both women and babies in the state of Oklahoma,” said Kathryn Konrad, co-leader of the Oklahoma Birth Network. “There’s lots and lots of research showing that breast-feeding is the best choice for both mom and baby.”
Konrad said breast-feeding has been shown to help mothers by decreasing their chances of developing postpartum depression and also helping to establish a better bond between mother and child.
“For babies, we know it decreases their risks for allergies ... serious childhood illnesses like diabetes and decreases their risk of diseases later on in life,” Konrad said.
The CDC report also shows that:
In Oklahoma, 38 percent of infants were breastfed at 6 months of age. By the time the babies reach their first birthdays, that number dipped to about 23 percent of babies being breast-fed, according to the report.
About 36 percent of babies were being only breast-fed at 3 months of age, not also fed with formula
About 16 percent of babies were only breast-fed at 6 months of age.
Oklahoma also had a low rate of babies born at “baby-friendly” hospitals, a distinction given to hospitals that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding.
In Oklahoma, 0.4 percent of live births occurred at a baby-friendly facility in 2013. The national average was almost 8 percent.
The Baby Friendly hospital program is a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. This is the highest designation afforded to hospitals by an accrediting body that promotes best practices for maternity care.
The Claremore Indian Hospital is the only hospital in Oklahoma that has reached baby-friendly status, according to the initiative’s website. Nine other hospitals are pursuing the status, including Integris Baptist Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, St. Anthony Hospital and OU Medical Center Edmond, according to the Oklahoma Health Department.
Also, the Health Department has pushed an initiative to “Ban the Bag,” asking hospitals to stop sending new mothers home with bags of commercial formula. Thus far, 50 percent of Oklahoma’s birthing hospitals have participated.
Konrad said initiatives like this are important in increasing breast-feeding rates in Oklahoma.
“There is no reason to give formula to people who don’t need it,” Konrad said. “However, if you give formula to a breast-feeding mom, it’s like saying, ‘Oh, you’re not going to be successful — here’s your backup.’”