There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re thinking about having a baby — how your finances are, will you work or stay home, use a daycare or hire a nanny. But have you ever stopped to consider whether where you live is a good place to start a family? Fit Pregnancy magazine talked to the experts, looked at the research, and measured everything from fertility services to maternity leave and daycare laws. Then they compiled a special report naming the best cities for having a baby. Peg Moline, editor-in-chief of Fit Pregnancy, was invited to share results from the report on TODAY. Here’s more on the report:
HOW THEY MEASURED
How did you determine the best cities in America to have a baby? What were your criteria?
First we identified the 50 largest cities in terms of population. We then dug through statistics in 50 categories, from access to obstetricians, to affordability, to the number of birthing centers and birthing options, to available daycare and more. This is really important because it's not just one thing that makes a city great for having a baby, it's many things.
What we found was surprising. In some cities, there were midwives galore; in others, hardly any. Certain cities had alternative birthing centers; in others, we found none. Among different cities, access to daycare varied as much as the weather. Breastfeeding rates varied by a factor of almost three to one.
RANKING THE CITIES:
What are the best cities in America to have a baby, and why?
The top five cities in order are: Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, and Omaha.
1. Boston has phenomenal healthcare, and is home to some of the nation's most highly regarded specialty hospitals and fertility clinics. It has more prenatal pediatricians per capita than anywhere else, and twice the national average number of specialized hospital birthing rooms per capita among cities in our survey. Despite attracting high-risk cases, maternal and infant mortality are the lowest of anywhere we surveyed.
2. San Francisco's air quality is excellent, and the plentiful hills and parks are great for exercise, increasing the chances for a healthy pregnancy. Breastfeeding rates are higher than average, probably due at least in part to progressive state laws that guarantee a mother the right to breastfeed in public or pump at work. Fertility specialists abound (they have more fertility clinics and doctors relative to population than almost any other city in the survey and California requires health insurers to offer coverage for fertility services other than in vitro fertilization). And rates for preterm and low-birth-weight babies are low.
3. Minneapolis also has almost three times the average number of licensed daycare providers for every 1,000 children under age 4. Plenty of fertility clinics (nearly twice the national average) and specialty birthing rooms, combined with easy availability of doulas and midwives, round out Minneapolis' appeal. Not to mention housing is affordable since Minnesota allows greater dependent-related tax breaks than most states.
4. Portland moms come in at number one for nursing their babies: Fully 89 percent initiate breastfeeding, and six months later 57 percent are still at it. Not surprisingly, we found more breastfeeding-support stores and lactation consultants per live birth than virtually anywhere else. Portland also ranked among the highest in our survey in popularity of midwives and doulas.
5. Lastly, Omaha's Methodist Hospital is one of just 50 Baby Friendly Hospitals in the U.S., designated for meeting UNICEF/World Health Organization standards for supporting breastfeeding. Throw in affordable housing, good air quality and low maternal mortality, plus easy access to daycare, and you've got a terrific combination.
You had a special mention category and Jacksonville, Florida was honored in two of those categories: Most Stroller Friendly City and Best city for Childcare. Why was it recognized in these categories?
It's stroller friendly because with its warm year-round weather, plenty of sunshine and nearly seven times as much park space as the average for cities in the survey, it boasts 106 miles of stroller-friendly pathways and trails which is 51 percent more than average.
It got best city for childcare because Florida received high marks for laws mandating stringent background checks for childcare workers. Daycare centers must staff at least one worker for every three infants. And Jacksonville's rush hour traffic is moderate and rush hour is a top concern for parents juggling daycare drop-offs and pickups with a hectic work schedule.
What's interesting about this report compared to last year's?
What is great is that New York and Los Angeles both moved up six spots. They are both making their cities better for families to have babies
So if you're a mother who lives in a city that wasn't ranked on the top of the list, what can be done to ensure the best delivery and child-rearing experience?
For starters, breastfeeding is very important for both the baby and the mother's health. Take advantage of any resources available to you, such as childbirth classes, lactation consultants, and prenatal care facilities. Also, it is very important to care for your own health and fitness; take prenatal fitness classes or yoga at your gym or local YMCA. And just to be clear, no city received perfect scores in every category. And while there's room for improvement in each of the cities surveyed, nearly all did well in one or more areas.