Experts agree that breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for infants and is associated with numerous positive outcomes for both babies and mothers. Yet, Kentucky has the 5th lowest rate in the nation of babies who were ever breastfed at just over half (57.8%) of Kentucky children born in 2008.  We have actually made progress from two years ago when we were second to last, however there is still plenty of room for improvement.

What’s the reason for our low rates in Kentucky? There are a number of factors. Health care settings often have policies that create barriers to breastfeeding, such as the promotion of bottle feeding and infant formula by distributing free or discounted formula. Many health care settings also lack the personnel needed to teach and encourage breastfeeding. Additional challenges arise when mothers leave the hospital and enter a world that advertises bottle feeding as the norm, and they return to work and other public places that lack the facilities that support breastfeeding and/or pumping.

On a positive note, the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services issued new standards yesterday requiring health insurance providers to cover preventive services for women including counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding.  This most certainly is a win for women and children.

We know what works when it comes to increasing breastfeeding initiation, and we need to make it a priority in Kentucky. All mothers should be given adequate education before and after delivery, and the proper support in their communities and workplaces, so that more children in Kentucky have the opportunity to begin life with the best nutrition.

For more information about breastfeeding in Kentucky see the 2008 County Data Book

For the most recent county-level data for Kentucky visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center