The Data on Breastfeeding

For health as well as financial reasons, most physicians choose to breastfeed their infants. In each of the few studies that have focused on the breastfeeding practices of physicians themselves, doctors have very high rates of breastfeeding initiation when compared to all US mothers. And yet women physicians also have fairly high rates of early weaning. According to the National Immunization Survey, in 2004, breastfeeding rates for all US mothers were 73.8% and 41.5% at birth and six months, respectively. More than ten years ago, a national study of female resident physicians in all specialties reported a very high breastfeeding initiation rate of 80%, but only a 15% rate of breastfeeding at six months (Miller, 1996). More recently in Mississippi, 95% of practicing physicians initiated breastfeeding while early weaning rates were comparable to the national average (Arthur, 2003). In Rhode Island in 2005, breastfeeding initiation was 90% among the children of family medicine and obstetrics & gynecology resident physicians (Kacmar, 2006). However in the Rhode Island study, only 8% of the female residents were still breastfeeding at one year as compared with 50% of the children of male residents. Most health care professional are aware that breastfeeding is healthier than formula for our children. And yet these studies demonstrate that physician-mothers face many challenges with respect to sustained breastfeeding when they return to work.

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