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How Breastfeeding-Friendly Is Your State?

State laws can make a big difference as to how easy it is for mothers to breastfeed their babies for as long as pediatricians recommend.
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Maternity, a 1902 painting by Stanisław Wyspiański. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Maternity, a 1902 painting by Stanisław Wyspiański. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There's plenty of science showing that, for most infants, breast is best. That's why public-health officials want to see most American babies consume breast milk exclusively until they're at least six months old. But, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half the babies born in 2011 met that goal.

Policies designed to make breastfeeding easier can help make breastfeeding more commonplace. The Affordable Care Act already requires many insurance companies—although not Medicaid—to cover breast milk-pumping supplies and counseling. Plus, larger companies must provide break time and a space for new moms to express breast milk.

But state laws can go even further. Some states protect breastfeeding women from being cited for public indecency, for example, or make pumping supplies tax-free. Laws that support breast milk expressing in the workplace could be especially helpful. Almost half of new moms go back to work within a year after giving birth, and work is a commonly cited reason for stopping breastfeeding sooner than doctors recommend.

Curious how breastfeeding-friendly your state is? Check out our map below. We put it together using data from a recent policy brief published in Health Affairs.

In the future, look out for how the next administration will treat the Affordable Care Act and its breastfeeding provisions. If the next president proves unfriendly to the ACA, states will have to make up for lost protections with their own laws.