New York State Wic Program Exceeds National Breastfeeding Goals Six Years Ahead of Schedule

Breastfeeding Initiation Reaches 83.4 percent

Significant Improvements Seen across All Racial and Ethnic Groups

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16, 2017) - The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) announced today that breastfeeding initiation among women in the New York Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) increased from 62 percent in 2002 to 82.4 percent in 2014, surpassing the federal Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) goal of 81.9 percent, six years ahead of schedule. The results were published in the MMWR today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can be found here.

The data come from the New York Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS), which looked at the prevalence of breastfeeding initiation among WIC infants between 2002 and 2015. By 2015, the prevalence of breastfeeding initiation was 83.4 percent. The percentage of infants who breastfed for a longer duration also went up. Between 2002 and 2015, the percentage of infants who breastfed for more than six and 12 months also increased, from 30.2 percent and 15 percent in 2002 to 39.5 and 22.8 percent in 2015, respectively.

The increased prevalence in breastfeeding initiation was especially pronounced among racial and ethnic minority groups. Hispanic women for instance, reached the HP2020 goal in 2007 and have continued to experience increased rates of breastfeeding initiation by 0.8 percentage points annually. Asians had the largest increase, with 45.8 percent of women initiating breastfeeding in 2002 and 82.7 percent in 2015, a relative increase of 80.6 percent

"I am delighted to see the significant increase in breastfeeding initiation among women in New York State's WIC program, which demonstrates that our aggressive efforts to promote breastfeeding are working," said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "The benefits of breastfeeding to both the infant and the mother are extensive, which is why we continue to work hard to encourage women to breastfeed and create systems of support for women who do."

Research shows that breast milk provides unique nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from diseases such as ear infections, lower respiratory infections and diarrhea, and decrease the risk for asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life. For women, breastfeeding lowers their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as diabetes.

PedNSS did not monitor exclusive breastfeeding status among WIC infants until 2006. But the data between 2006 and 2015 showed that the percentage of infants who were exclusively breastfed for six months or more had an annual increase of 18.9 percent between 2006 and 2010 and an annual increase of 6.2 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Exclusive breastfeeding is a public health priority and a goal of the New York State Prevention Agenda, the blueprint for state and local action to improve the health of all New Yorkers. In addition, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, and World Health Organization all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

Last year, the NYSDOH awarded $7.2 million to six organizations to establish Breastfeeding Friendly community support networks for families from pregnancy through infancy to increase breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity and duration.The Department also amended regulations to require hospitals to place newborns with their mothers immediately after delivery, unless contraindicated. Studies find that mothers who have skin-to-skin contact with their newborns are more likely to initiate breastfeeding.

In addition, the amended regulations required hospitals to discuss the negative impact of early pacifier use on breastfeeding and banned the giving of gift bags that contain formula marketing materials such as coupons or free samples to new parents, a practice also associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding. The new policies did not affect infants whose mothers have chosen formula feeding or for whom breastfeeding is medically contraindicated.