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Journal Article

Progress in Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting Breastfeeding: 1984–2009

By Grummer-Strawn L, Shealy K


The 1984 Surgeon General’s Workshop on Breastfeeding delineated six priority areas for action to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. In this article, we examine trends in breastfeeding behaviors and recall key events and actions that shaped these behaviors over the past 25 years. We examine progress in breastfeeding support through workplaces, public education, professional education, health system changes, support services, and research. Rates of initiation of breastfeeding more than doubled from a nadir of only 26.5% in 1970 to 61.9% in 1982. Initiation fell to 51.5% in 1990, but has risen almost monotonically since then to 74.2% in 2005. Trends in breastfeeding at 6 months have paralleled initiation trends. Black-white disparities have narrowed for breastfeeding initiation but not for continuation to 6 months. Considerable progress in breastfeeding support has been seen over the past 25 years, with more employers allowing women time and space to express milk at work, more states enacting legislation to ensure that accommodations are made for employed women and protect the right to breastfeed in public, more opportunities for physician education on breastfeeding, expansion of professional lactation services, and substantial increases in the amount of research on breastfeeding. However, only 21.4% of babies are breastfed for a year, and only 11.9% exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. Only 2% of babies are born in facilities that meet international standards of care, and 74% of employers do not offer lactation rooms or accommodations for breastfeeding. Thus, in spite of considerable progress, significant gaps remain in protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding.

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Date Added
March 16, 2018

Grummer-Strawn L, Shealy K (2009) Progress in Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting Breastfeeding: 1984–2009. Breastfeeding Medicine: Vol. 4, Issue S1, pp. S31-S39. Available online: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/bfm.2009.0049