Okay… I’m about to break my single-post personal record for number crunching and hotlinks. Please bear with me!
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Obesity is a complicated health issue. A bewildering array of factors— everything from the culture we live in, to the foods we eat, genetics, politics, and the exercise we get (or, usually, don’t)–come into play in determining whether today’s average-sized newborn will become tomorrow’s obese adult.
The eight states with the highest rates of teen obesity (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) are also America’s eight lowest in exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months of age.
Of the eight states with the lowest rates of teen obesity (CO, MT, ID, UT, MA, VT, SD, WI), five are in the Top 10 in terms of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months.
The obesity-breastfeeding association pans out across all age ranges, too:
Of course, it’s hard to successfully breastfeed if the support isn’t there:
- Of the 8 states with the poorest breastfeeding rates (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OH, OK and WV), 5 have no Baby Friendly facilities, and the remainder are well below the national average for births in such facilities.
- 7 of the 8 have well below the national average of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.*
- Only one of these states (Mississippi) has passed any childcare regulations that support onsite breastfeeding.
- Only one–again, Mississippi–has passed any laws about nursing in the workplace.
Now, as I said, there’s more to obesity than whether or not a baby is breastfed. The more obese states tend to have significantly higher rates of poverty than the “leaner” states do, to cite one obvious example. And an association between two variables doesn’t prove one is the cause of the other.
Still… what more evidence do you need to support breastfeeding for all mothers in all situations? In an ever more obese nation, why not give kids the healthiest start we can?
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*(US average is 3.24 IBCLC’s per 1,000 births; the bottom 8 states average 2.49; the 5 states with the highest breastfeeding rates [CO, OR, UT, NH and VT] average 22.8).