Although more than 80 percent of U.S. mothers breastfeed their newborns, most moms quit nursing before babies turn 1 year old, according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The official recommendation on breastfeeding from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that babies should get nothing but breast milk until they’re six months old, and then should continue to be breastfed until they’re a year old, or possibly longer, depending on what works for you and your baby.
The AAP stresses that breastfeeding isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s a health one—with studies suggesting that breastfeeding can reduce infants’ risk of asthma, ear infections, lower respiratory infections, eczema, type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia and childhood obesity. In mothers, breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Still, American women are giving up on breastfeeding before they reach the year mark: The CDC survey found that “less than a third (30.7 percent) of infants were breastfeeding at 12 months.”
As NBC News reports, there are multiple reasons for the drop off, but “a big one is that so many working women find it hard to continue breastfeeding,” especially given that the average maternity leave in the U.S. is a mere 10 weeks.
To help women stick to breastfeeding longer, the CDC emphasizes the importance of peer and professional support for new moms, as well as support once they return to work (think: a legit lactation room where you can pump in privacy).