CDC Reports on Breastfeeding Outcomes: Alaska achieves high ranking among all states

On August 1st CDC reported that Alaskan babies born in 2016 were breastfed at higher rates than babies born in most other states. This is important news not only for mothers and babies, but for health coverage programs such as Medicaid and private insurance companies. Mothers who breastfed their babies may lower their risk of diabetes and breast cancer. Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese, have ear infections and severe dental decay. Research shows that breastfeeding helps mothers to bond with their babies and to reduce the risk of child neglect and abuse.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be exclusively fed breast milk until they reach 6 months of age. Alaska ranks first among all states for the percent of babies exclusively fed breast milk through 6 months of age. Alaska ranks third for the percent of babies who continued to breastfeed until they reached 12 months of age, another recommendation of the AAP.


How have Alaska’s mothers and babies been so successful with breastfeeding? Many leaders have partnered for years to address infant nutrition needs in Alaska. These leaders promoted and supported evidence based clinical care that is known to be effective in improving breastfeeding outcomes.


These leaders include Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Alaska Native Medical Center, Norton Sound Health Corporation and Bartlett Regional Hospital. Alaska Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) survey data shows that Mat-Su Regional Medical Center's exclusivity rate in 2016 was 71.7% at 8 weeks, the highest in the state. Alaska’s hospitals have adopted best practices in care for breastfeeding mothers and babies and the quality care they provide supports mothers and babies to begin breastfeeding successfully. These hospitals should be celebrated for their leadership in Alaska’s success.


WIC is the longest standing leader in supporting breastfeeding mothers and babies all over the state. Further, WIC helps parents understand their baby’s behavior, so that they can meet all of their needs…..including cuddling and speaking with them. People often think that crying is the only behavior babies use to signal hunger.   Crying is a distress signal and babies display many hunger cues before they become so stressed they cry. WIC continues to provide foundational nutrition services for Alaskan mothers and their babies.


The Alaska Breastfeeding Coalition volunteer have supported Alaskan mothers and babies to breastfeed for over 25 years. The Coalition provides training in breastfeeding support for doctors, nurses, nurse midwives, lay midwives, dietitians, WIC staff and other community partners who support breastfeeding families.


In 2012, the Alaska Breastfeeding Initiative joined these leaders and worked to support their efforts by increasing the number of hospital and WIC staff completing training in evidence based breastfeeding care. CDC collects and tracks data that show great improvement in hospital practices associated with knowledge and skill in this area. In 2018, the Alaska Division of Public Health Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion secured a grant from CDC making it possible for this work to continue and to expand to include “breastfeeding Welcomed Here” for childcare programs.


Alaskans wanting to support families to raise healthy children need to support families to be successful with breastfeeding.


Please follow this link to access CDC's scoring of Alaskan hospitals' Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (MPINC)


Please see this online resource with information about infant nutrition and how communities can support breastfeeding mothers and babies: