Infant Mortality

  • Every week in California, 55 infants die before their first birthday.

  • Between 1999 and 2007, the infant mortality rate in California decreased from 5.4 per 1,000 to 5.2 per 1,000, paralleling a similar decrease nationwide (7 per 1,000 in 1999 to 6.8 per 1,000 in 2007).

  • In 2007, the infant mortality rate for African Americans was 12.4 per 1,000, underscoring a disparity that is not unique to California. Nationally, African American infant mortality rates are 2.4 times higher than the rate for white infants. African American infants are also four times more likely than white infants to die from complications related to low birthweight.

Prenatal Care & Birthweight

  • Rates of early prenatal care vary by race and ethnicity. In California, white mothers have the highest rate of early prenatal care (90%), followed by Asian (89%), Latina (84%), African American (83%) and Native American (75%) mothers.

  • 3% of mothers in California receive late (third trimester) or no prenatal care compared to 4% nationally. In the state, Native American mothers (7%) have the highest rate of late or no prenatal care, followed by African American (4%) and Latina (3%) mothers.

  • Approximately 11% of California births are preterm compared to 12% nationally. In the state, the preterm birth rate is highest among African American infants (15%), followed by Native American (13%), Latino (11%), Asian (10%) and white (10%) infants.

  • The percentage of infants born at a low birthweight is 7% in California and 8% nationally. The low birthweight rate in California is highest among African American infants (12%), followed by Asian (8%), Native American (7%), white (6%) and Latino (6%) infants.


  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Family Physicians, immunizations should begin at birth and continue throughout life.

  • While infants are born with immunities, these last only between one month and one year, and may not include immunities not carried by the mother. Consequently, vaccinations are an important part of infant and community health.

  • As a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, federal law now requires that insurance companies include immunizations and other preventive services to infants and older children at no extra cost to families. AB 2345 (De La Torre) enacted this policy in California.

  • With his line-item veto authority, Gov. Schwarzenegger cut $18 million from the state Department of Public Health’s local immunization programs. The funds had been used to reach underserved children under age two whose immunization records were not up-to-date.

  • California ranks 12th in the nation in the percentage of young children, ages 19-35 months, who receive the recommended vaccinations. Still, in 2009, only three quarters (75%) of California’s children, ages 19-35 months, received all recommended vaccinations.

  • For every $1 spent on immunizations, as much as $29 can be saved in direct and indirect costs.

  • Nationally, the percentage of vaccinated children who are enrolled in Medicaid (74%) is lower than children who have private health insurance (78%).

Health Benefits & Prevalence of Breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of children becoming overweight. For each month of breastfeeding until an infant reaches nine months, the odds of that child becoming overweight decreases by 4%. Children who are breastfed for nine months are more than 30% less likely to become overweight compared to children who are never breastfed.

  • Infants who are breastfed are at decreased risk of developing eczema, type 2 diabetes and childhood leukemia.

  • Despite the health benefits, only 54% of California’s infants are even partially breastfed at six months, and only 17% are exclusively breastfed at six months.

  • The percent of California children breastfed at age one (31%) is well above the national average of 22%.

  • Frequency of breastfeeding varies dramatically by race/ethnicity in California. While more than two-thirds of white newborns (70%) are exclusively breastfed in the hospital, rates are much lower for Latino (40%), African American (41%) and Asian (50%) newborns.

  • Barriers to breastfeeding are especially common for low-income mothers. Hospitals that serve low-income populations have faced cuts to programs that support breastfeeding; hospitals may be unprepared to translate important breastfeeding information for new parents who don’t speak English; and many low-income mothers may not be able to afford unpaid leave or have access to flexible work schedules and lactation accommodations.

Maternal Mental Health

  • Nationally, about 9% of mothers experience major depression during the year after giving birth. The rates are even higher for mothers with previous histories of depression or mothers experiencing other stressors, such as financial hardship or social isolation.

  • Children raised by depressed mothers are at risk for mental health problems later in life, as well as social adjustment difficulties and other difficulties while in school. For example, children of depressed mothers are less likely to participate in age-appropriate preschool activities and are more likely to “act out.”

  • Poor mothers, living at or below the federal poverty level, are more likely to experience depression when their children are infants than higher-income mothers, living at or above 200% of the federal poverty line. Among mothers of nine-month-old babies, those who were poor are more than twice as likely (25%) to experience depression as higher-income mothers (11%).

  • Fewer than one in six (15%) depressed new mothers seeks professional care.

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