By Audrey Quinn
Posting in Education
A new study highlights the loss of income that can accompany the time demands of breastfeeding.
Researchers have linked breastfeeding with benefits ranging from lower chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, to higher cognitive abilities, to enhanced immunity. And unlike pricey formulas, breast milk is free, right?
Only if you don't count the cost of a mother's time, says a new study in the journal American Sociological Review.
If the recent backlash over Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comment that stay-at-home-mom Ann Romney "has never actually worked a day in her life," taught us anything, it's to not undervalue a mother's time.
"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," the study's coauthor Phyllis L. F. Rippeyoung said in a press release. "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."
Given the large number of studies published on the health benefits of breastfeeding, Rippeyoung questions why more researchers haven't tried to quantify women's loss of income while breastfeeding. "This is an important omission, given that the majority of women today work for pay, and many work in job environments incompatible with breastfeeding," her study states.
Rippeyoung and her coauthor Mary C. Noonan found that women who breastfeed for six months or longer (per pediatricians' recommendations) have significantly greater earnings losses than women who breastfeed for less time or not at all. This larger loss in earnings comes from reduced hours spent working for income.
"We see that the ability to intensively mother via long-duration breastfeeding is class-biased," Noonan says in the press release. "Women who breastfeed tend to be white, college educated, and married. Additionally, on average, women who breastfeed are more likely to be married to college-educated men, men who can financially facilitate women taking time out of the labor force."
It makes sense for the U.S. Surgeon General to encourage breast feeding because it can pay off in terms of reducing child healthcare costs. But If the government is going to continue to push for breastfeeding it also needs to push equally hard for policy towards more social and workplace support for breastfeeding women, otherwise the practice's pro-health benefits will remain in the realm of the privileged.
Photo: Hamish Darby/Flickr
Apr 26, 2012
I breast feeded for almost 6 years with no interuptions other than been pregneat and having less production of milk, I worked at a big Hotel Resort Casino and Country Club with all the crazy hours and shifts,I had to extract milk, hang around with my bag and breast pump machine, it was hard at moments but as far as i know been a mother is all about making sacrifices. If I go back in time I would had done it all over again why? because is my responsability I love them and good health was part of the deal. It never sound it logical to me to feed my baby's with another animal milk or man made milk when my body was capable of producing what was the best quality milk for my kids. Im sorry their is NO unmentioned cost AT ALL, been a mother is all hard every way you look at it or expirience it!!! but again I LOVE DOING IT! :D
Yes, I agree totally that this article is a lot of BS. Can you quantify the benefits to the society of breastfed children? My professor once commented, the reason why children today act like animals, is because a lot of them were given animal milk....... Breastfeeding is the best for human babies.... there are lot of intangible benefits.....the bond with the mother and baby is the most wonderful and awesome result. Please let us encourage breast feeding........
The older I get (I am a guy), the more I have come to appreciate the importance of the role played by my wife (mother of our child) in raising a healthy, loving and caring person. First of all, there is more to breast feeding than breast milk, though I don't mean to deminish the benefits (immune system and nutrition) of human breast milk over cow's milk, which has been linked to juvenile diabetes. During the act of breast feeding, both mother and child release Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the "Love Hormone". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin Although I suppose it's possible for Oxytocin to be released by both participants, when a father feeds a baby with mom's expressed breast milk (not sure that anybody has studied this), it's not so much about feeding the baby as if you were filling up a car with fuel as it is about bonding behaviors (eye contact, stroking, touching, etc.). Yes, there will definitely be the downside of decreased income if mom is working at home doing mom stuff instead of bringing in the bucks doing something else. I do however think you do yourself a disservice by equating that monetary loss with the benefits obtained by staying at home raising the children. Perhaps if you/we could find a study which calculates the monetary value of stay-at-home mom's tasks (breast feeding included) and compared that against lost earning power, the virtual compensation for stay at home mom would be far greater than potential wages for slave in the workplace mom.
If they stay home to care for children they are called slaves to tradition by the womens lib types. If they go to work leaving kids in day care they are called selfish bad parents by some people. I have seen many parents raise great kids under many different circumstances and I have seen just as many raise messed up kids in just as many different scenarios. I say screw everyone and let her do what fits her family situation. A responsible parent will make it work and a good kid will be the result.
Like Ann Romney, my ex wife breast fed our children and did not work. I think it is more of a culture thing, because like Ann Romney my ex wife is a Mormon and the LDS women don't like to go out to work, they say the more important job is staying at home being a mum. Well thats all very well and quite right for breast feeding and whilst they are young, but not afterwards!! This excuse wears thin after a while, although I do agree breast is best. But for me it turned out to be far more expensive! I got home one day from work to find that they had abducted the children, emptied the house and bank accounts. My personal opinion is that breast milk can and should be expressed and put in the cooler, a mother should be encouraged as time permits to go back to work. After all money is tight these days and men see enough of women staying at home doing fun things with the kids, running around in nice cars, whilst the husband works hard to keep the family. I know this is about breast feeding, but a certain culture tends to grow around it where often a woman can take advantage, it seems apt to mention it since the article mentions Ann Romney and the fact that she does not go out to work at all. It is rather typical of that culture. And then they feel a man is not good at bringing up the children so the wife has all the power - even to taking away the children. The benefits of breast feeding to me are outweighed by the lifestyle detachment of father from children. A father can give milk expressed just as well as a mother and should be encouraged to do so. The effects of giving birth usually do not last very long, there is no reason for this old role that does not fit into modern society
Anahaw, I agree with you, the benefits of breastfeeding are unquantifiable. But for some women, taking the time away from earning an income to breastfeed is simply not an option. And that is something that needs to be addressed.
You need to Google "Quantifiable benefits of breast feeding". There has been an awful lot of stuff published about this. You should understand that researchers are constantly mining data from NIH studies, etc. about everything affecting development, morbidity, and mortality. We know the quantifiable benefits of not smoking, moderate drinking vs too much vs none at all. We know the quantifiable benefits of reducing the consumption of some fats while increasing the consumption of others. Without a doubt and in spite of efforts on the part of enormous powerful parties participating in the Baby formula supply chain to prove otherwise, there have been and continue to be studies documenting the quantifiable benefits of of breastfeeding. I think the real problem here relative to economic loss is the absence of facilities and or services, which would enable a mother to continue earning an income along with close proximity to the baby/toddler to accomodate their need to nurse. In the third world, where mothers have their nursing children hanging off their side while they till the land, breastfeeding continues. In Europe and some of the more progressive companies in the U.S., childcare facilities are on-site at the workplace, which provide office workers an opportunity to serve the needs of their children as well as their employers. I think the biggest problem right now relative to the problem this article is documenting is the 'all or nothing' approach commonly found in the U.S. I think it's time for corporate America to step up to the plate and do more than just lend lip service to the importance of family and life/work balance and allow nursing mothers to continue to breast feed and work.