West Virginia has increased its initiation rate from about 53 percent in 2010 and 54.1 percent in 2011.
"West Virginia's numbers are increasing — about four points from last year — so we've jumped up quite a bit, that's encouraging," Compton said. "But when looking at the national average, we're still 16 points behind."
Local hospitals are working to improve the rate of breastfeeding in the area.
Beth Hedrick, director of obstetrics at Thomas Memorial Hospital, said the hospital has been encouraging new mothers to breastfeed.
"Our numbers have continued to rise, especially with the addition of a lactation consultant," Hedrick said.
Jamie Peden, the lactation consultant for Thomas Memorial Hospital, said that Thomas' breastfeeding initiation rate is about 60 percent — slightly higher than average for the rest of the state.
Meggan Beckner, clinical coordinator for the newborn nursery and NICU, said it's likely that number is slightly higher due to being in a metropolitan area.
"The population is a little more educated; we have specialists to help. The resources are available here, where they might not be elsewhere," Beckner said.
Charleston Area Medical Center's Women and Children's Hospital is looking into a default option of breastfeeding and having mothers opt-out if they're not interested, spokesman Dale Witte said.
"We're always looking for best practices and someone noticed that a few hospitals around the country had started taking the 'opt out' approach to breastfeeding. These institutions were doing it for the sickest of its patients because mother's milk is the best medicine."
The hospital is discussing the option, but no decision or timelines have been set.
Breastfeeding is the first thing mothers can do for their newborn babies, Compton said. It helps protect against diseases and promotes better health outcomes.
"It's the first line of defense for a healthier population," Compton said.