Baton Rouge, La. -- Louisiana jumped four spots in the federal government's latest breastfeeding report card, marking solid progress in the state's support of breastfeeding, the Department of Health announced Thursday. Breastfeeding has been proven to improve health outcomes for women and children, including reducing the rate of childhood obesity.

In total, more than 60 percent of infants in Louisiana have been breastfed at some point in their lives, up from 53 percent last year. This improvement, attributable to efforts by the LDH and its partners to promote breastfeeding, helped Louisiana move up to 44th on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card, released this week.  

The improvement coincides with  World Breastfeeding Week, and LDH officials are reminding everyone that breastfeeding can contribute to the long-term health of women and their children. Gov. Bobby Jindal proclaimed August as World Breastfeeding Month in Louisiana as part of an international effort to raise awareness about the many benefits of breastfeeding and the important role that community plays in supporting breastfeeding.

"Whether to breastfeed is one of the first decisions we make as parents, and it's also one of the most important because it can impact a child's lifelong health. I am proud that we have improved the rate of breastfeeding in our state, which is a key factor in reducing future problems like childhood obesity and diabetes," said LDH Kathy Kliebert. "It is so important for parents, especially first-time mothers, to have all the facts about the ways in which breastfeeding can improve their child's health. Every child deserves the best chance at a healthy future, and we want parents to know there are resources available to help."

"I applaud Louisiana's hospitals, the breastfeeding support community and our LDH employees for the outstanding job they have all done in championing this worthwhile cause," said J.T. Lane, assistant secretary for Public Health. "Breastfeeding is the most nutritious way to feed your baby, and it acts as a protection against chronic disease later in life including reducing childhood obesity." 

The 2013 theme, "Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers," focuses on Breastfeeding Peer Counseling.  Even when mothers are able to get off to a good start, all too often in the weeks or months after delivery there is a sharp decline in breastfeeding rates, and practices, particularly exclusive breastfeeding.

The Peer Counseling Program provides an essential support system for mothers to help meet their breastfeeding goals and to maintain. Peer counselors provide a valuable service to their communities, addressing the barriers to breastfeeding by offering breastfeeding education, support and role modeling. They are mothers, many recruited by the Louisiana Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), who have personal experience with breastfeeding and are trained to provide basic breastfeeding information and support to other mothers with whom they share various characteristics, such as language, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.  

Louisiana's rate of infants who are ever breastfed is 60.6 percent, compared to the national average rate of 76.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card. Louisiana also has lower-than-national-average rates of infants who are exclusively breastfed at three months and six months, and lower rates of infants who continue breastfeeding through 12 months.

Some positive health outcomes mothers and babies experience from breastfeeding, continued at least for the first six months of the baby's life, include:

  • Increased natural immunity and lowered risk for babies of infections and stomach problems, allergic reactions, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Reduced risk of babies becoming obese or developing diabetes later in life. Breastfeeding may also reduce the mother's risk of certain breast and ovarian cancers and Type II diabetes.
  • Increased opportunity for the mother to relax and develop a special bond with her baby.
  • Greater weight reduction for mothers who breastfeed because they lose pregnancy weight faster. They also have an opportunity to save more money than mothers who don't breastfeed because they don't have to buy formula, bottles and other feeding supplies.

The LDH's Office of Public Health is using this month to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and promote key statewide activities and initiatives that are under way to improve Louisiana's rates of breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding is good for both the mother and the baby," said Dr. Takeisha Davis, LDH Office of Public Health Chief Medical Officer. "This month, we want to let Louisiana moms know there are programs and services available to support them and their entire family so they can give their infants a better start at a healthy life by choosing to breastfeed."

For more information about breastfeeding, or to get referrals for breastfeeding support organizations, contact the Partners for Healthy Babies Helpline, 1-800-251-BABY (2229), or online at Local breastfeeding help can be found at