New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds breastfeeding rates in the Garden State are rising.

According to the CDC’s new Breastfeeding Report Card, the number of women who report having breastfed their baby has risen from 82.8% to 88.8% since last year.

In addition, Jersey’s breastfeeding-only rate at three months is up from 40.6% to 43.7%, breastfeeding at six months increased from 40.6% to 43.7% and breastfeeding at one year went up from 36.1% to 38%.

“It is really important because breastfeeding and breast milk is the best nutrition we can provide for a new infant,” state Assistant Health Commissioner Lisa Asare said.

She said breastfeeding also helps the mother by reducing diabetes and weight gain.

New Jersey has 14 hospitals that have been given a Baby-Friendly Hospital designation from the World Health Organization for encouraging breastfeeding.

Inspira Medical Center Elmer
Capital Health Medical Center — Hopewell
Jersey Shore University Medical Center
Overlook Medical Center
Morristown Medical Center
Southern Ocean Medical Center
Our Lady of Lourdes
University Hospital
AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center
Newton Medical Center
Chilton Medical Center
Virtua Memorial
Virtua Voorhees
John F. Kennedy Medical Center

Asare said these hospitals follow steps to promote the practice of breastfeeding, including initiating skin-to-skin contact right after birth and counseling the mother on the best ways to feed an infant.

She also noted the Health Department is working with the public and private sectors on the development of a Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan to encourage and expand breastfeeding even more.

“We recognize that to make this really happen statewide, we need to be talking about this in all sectors, so we need to have employers talking about this," Asare said.

Public service messages are being developed and a dialogue has begun with different departments and agencies within government as well as community and faith based organizations.

“We really want to normalize this and increase the awareness of breastfeeding in all settings," Asare said. "This is normal. This is the way we nourish children, and I really think it’s on us to really promote the benefits.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com