New data show most Minnesota moms breastfeed newborns

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New federal data show that 90 percent of Minnesota mothers breastfeed their newborns.

That's seventh best among all states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Minnesota ranks fifth for mothers who are still breastfeeding at six months.

Research indicates breastfeeding has many benefits to both children and their mothers.

The Minnesota Department of Health's Linda Dech said the state already has strong laws that support breastfeeding mothers. She says her department is now focusing on getting hospitals to do more to facilitate breastfeeding.

"It's just been encouraging to see that it's much more accepted and much more encouraged and supported in many different settings," said Linda Dech with the Minnesota Department of Health's Women, Infants and Children program.

In 1998, Minnesota was one of the first states to pass a law protecting women who breastfeed in public.

Later state laws allowed nursing mothers time and space to collect breast milk after they return to work.

Recent public health campaigns have focused on getting hospitals to stop giving free formula to new mothers because the practice can reduce breastfeeding rates, Dech said.

Nine hospitals have been certified as "Baby Friendly," which, among other things, means they don't push formula on new moms. But more than 90 other hospitals lack that designation.

"Maternity centers can play a major role by not handing out free formula or providing free formula in the first few days," Dech said.

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