Breastfeeding Is On Low Level In West Virginia, Advocates Are Trying To Find Solutions

In report for 2016, Centers for DCP (Disease Control and Prevention) have said  that the national average for breastfeeding is 81.1 % , in West Virginia, now is it at 64.6 %.


Breastfeeding Is On Low Level In West Virginia, Advocates Are Trying To Find Solutions


Percentage for six months, drops dramatically – nationally to 51.8 percent, and in West Virginia to 35.8 percent.

“Breastfeeding rates are quite low,” shared Dr. Joni Gray Friday at the first Appalachian Breastfeeding Network conference. “Women in Appalachia don’t tend to think of breastfeeding as an option for their babies.”

For Gray breastfeeding is a normal situation. She watched her mother breastfeed her little sister. Women at her church have encouraged other women to take a free step for breastfeeding.

“For me, I didn’t really even think about feeding options. I just knew I was going to do it.”

She said her experience was not without complications, but here was no decision-making process for her.


For other women, especially in Appalachia, women are encouraged to use formula for their babies – sometimes by family members, sometimes by physicians or by societal pressures.

With her research , Gray found women In Appalachia knew the benefits of breastfeeding, such as preventing the risk of obesity, diabetes or other kind of cancers, but that’s not a choice which most of the women are take for feeding their babies.


Gray said a cultural power code has been implemented in Appalachian communities placing formula over breastfeeding. She said breastfeeding has inaccurately been attached to low-income, single-parent homes.

“It’s social currency to use formula.”

But Gray and other members of the Appalachian Breastfeeding Network are trying to change that mindset.

“We need to get our message embraced and embedded. We need to de-throne formula.”

Laura Knisley, a nurse practitioner in Ohio, has also researched the barriers to successful breastfeeding in a formula-feeding culture.

More on the next page.

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