Study: Breastfeeding isn’t free

While many doctors advocate breastfeeding, other supporters use the argument that it’s a cheaper option than paying for bottles and formula, but a new study shows breastfeeding comes with a price.

The hidden fees

“Breastfeeding for six months or longer is only free if a mother’s time is worth absolutely nothing,” said Mary C. Noonan, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Iowa.

“When people say breastfeeding is free, I think their perspective is that one doesn’t have to buy anything to breastfeed whereas one needs to purchase formula and bottles to formula-feed,” Phyllis L. F. Rippeyoung, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Canada’s Acadia University said. “But, this simplistic view doesn’t take into consideration the hidden cost: the substantial income women often lose when they breastfeed for a long duration. To me, I see it as being highly related to how women’s unpaid work has always been undervalued.”

For a woman to breastfeed and work is difficult. Many companies do not accommodate new moms and some chose to go from full time to part time work to care for their child.

Needed changes

Rippeyoung say the research highlights the need for federal legislation that would protect the rights of all mothers to breastfeed at the workplace and compensate them for the unpaid labor associated with this type of infant feeding, especially if the government is going to continue to push for women to breastfeed.

“Currently, breastfeeding promotion focuses almost exclusively on encouraging women to breastfeed—without providing adequate economic and social supports to facilitate the practice—a reality that helps reproduce gender, class, and racial inequality,” Rippeyoung said.

“Legislation more supportive of breastfeeding would include paid parental leave and onsite daycares. Unless these or other policies are put in place, formula-feeding will continue to be the only realistic option for many women in the United States.”

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