Breastfeeding rates increased sharply over the past 20 years among women participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), based on the findings of a new USDA study. The Infant Year Report from USDA’s WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study 2 updates findings last collected in 1995. The new study found that 83 percent of mothers breast fed their babies, compared to 56 percent of mothers in the first USDA WIC Infant Feeding Practices Study.
“The results of this ongoing study are very encouraging,” said Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “Research has shown that breastfeeding provides a healthy nutritional foundation for infants to grow and thrive. And WIC plays an important role in fostering and supporting breastfeeding.”
In fact, more than 95 percent of study mothers who started breastfeeding reported that WIC played a role in their decision to breastfeed. Nearly 60 percent of caregivers also turned to WIC for information on feeding their infant, second only to their doctor or other health professional.
“It’s clear that WIC is a valuable resource for women considering whether to breastfeed and an ongoing source of information to answer any questions that may arise,” Concannon said.
The Infant Year Report also describes a dramatic reduction in the number of infants being introduced to solid foods too early in life. The current study found that only 20 percent of caregivers introduced their infants to foods before 4 months of age, as compared to about 60 percent of caregivers 20 years ago. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends infants receive only breast milk for about the first six months of life, and that they continue to be breastfed until at least 12 months, with the introduction of nutrient-rich foods starting at about six months of age.
The WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study 2 is a nationally representative study of women and infants enrolled in WIC. Mothers participating in the study responded to periodic surveys, from a prenatal interview through their child’s fifth birthday. The results will form the basis for a series of reports. The first focused on prenatal nutrition and was released in 2015. This current report reflects survey responses covering the infant’s first year.
WIC is one of 15 nutrition assistance programs administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service that also include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program. Working together these programs are designed to comprise America’s nutrition safety net to ensure that no eligible American goes hungry.