ATLANTA — The U.S. breast-feeding rate has hit its highest mark in at least 20 years with more than three-quarters of new moms nursing their infants, according to a government report released Wednesday.
Don't miss these Health stories
More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.
- Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
- Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
- CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
- What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says
- More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
About 77 percent of new mothers breast-feed, at least briefly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
"It looks like it is an all-time high" based on CDC surveys since the mid-1980s, said Jeff Lancashire, a CDC spokesman.
Experts attributed the rise to education campaigns that emphasize that breast milk is better than formula at protecting babies against disease and childhood obesity. A changing culture that accommodates nursing mothers may also be a factor.
The percentage of black infants who were ever breast-fed rose most dramatically, to 65 percent. Only 36 percent were ever breast-fed in 1993-1994, the new study found.
For whites, the figure rose to 79 percent, from 62 percent. For Mexican-Americans, it increased to 80 percent, from 67 percent.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher celebrated the report's findings, noting that black women have historically had lower breast-feeding rates.
"It was very impressive that when it comes to beginning to breast-feed, African-American women have had the greatest progress," said Satcher, who is now an administrator at Atlanta's Morehouse School of Medicine.
The new report is based on a comprehensive federal survey involving in-person interviews as well as physical examinations. The findings are based on information for 434 infants from the years 2005 and 2006.
A telephone survey of thousands of families, released last year, found that 74 percent of infants in 2004 had been breast-fed.
At least three types of CDC surveys have shown breast-feeding rates moving upward since the early 1990s, officials said.
The latest CDC report found rates of breast-feeding were also lowest among women who are unmarried, poor, rural, younger than 20, and have a high school education or less.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.