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August 5, 2011

For More Information Contact:

  • Cheryle Rodriguez, public information officer, 804-864-8236

Breastfed Babies are Healthier, Less Likely to Be Obese

(Richmond, Va.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 Breastfeeding Scorecard shows that more women in Virginia are choosing to breastfeed their babies. The rate of women initiating breastfeeding has increased to 79.1 percent in 2008 from 75.3 percent in 2007. These rates exceed the national rate of 74.6 percent, and exceed the goal of Healthy People 2010.

“Breastfeeding is good for mothers and their babies. Not only does it improve the overall health of both mother and child, it reduces the chances that the baby will be obese in childhood and it has a direct impact on lowering the rates of infant mortality,” says Health Commissioner Karen Remley, MD, MBA, FAAP. “The Breastfeeding Scorecard reflects 2008 data, and we continue to make positive strides in this area. The support of families, birth hospitals and employers is essential to keeping up this positive trend.”

Thanks to the policies and practices in birth hospitals, more women are initiating breastfeeding while they are in the hospital. “Hospitals work diligently to encourage and support breastfeeding for new mothers and to reinforce the education they receive during pregnancy,” says Laurens Sartoris, president of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “Once a mother and her baby are discharged, it takes all of us – hospitals, pediatric physicians and nurses, employers, the Virginia Department of Health and patients – to sustain educational efforts and assist these new mothers with continued breastfeeding.”

While the rate of women initiating breastfeeding has increased, fewer women are continuing to breastfeed beyond 6 months. The rate of women breastfeeding at 6 months dropped from 44.2 percent to 40.8 percent. “Public health, together with our partners in business, healthcare and the community, is focusing on ways to make sure that women who start breastfeeding in the hospital have the needed support to do so, if they wish, until their babies are a year old,” adds Remley.

Several public health initiatives with the healthcare and business communities currently focus on breastfeeding. Through the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), breastfeeding peer counselors work with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to help them succeed at their breastfeeding goals.The program has been a significant factor in improving breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among women in a variety of settings and with diverse cultural backgrounds.

Businesses that offer comprehensive lactation support programs have been found to enjoy increased employee retention rates, decreased absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, improved employee productivity, increased loyalty and morale, and a family-friendly image within the community. VDH works closely with employers throughout the Commonwealth to help them establish comprehensive lactation support programs for their employees utilizing the federally-developed Business Case for Breastfeeding toolkit.

In partnership with the University of Virginia, VDH is launching a web based CME/CEU training to help hospitals and clinics become “Baby Friendly Hospitals.” The training emphasizes practices and procedures to encourage and enable breastfeeding among women admitted to the hospital for childbirth and support them after they are discharged. Information on the training is available at

“We encourage families to support and assist the women in their lives to breastfeed their babies, and we look to our partners in healthcare and business to implement policies and programs that support both the initiation and the continuation of breastfeeding,” says Remley. For more information about breastfeeding, visit

Last Updated: 08-05-2011

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