Breastfeeding Inequality: The Stats Will Shock You

Too much bandwidth is being taken up by the so called ‘mommy wars’.

In this debate, opposing tribes of (typically well-off, middle-class) moms berate each while wielding their totemic claims: “Breast is best” vs “Back off and butt out, it’s every moms right to choose what’s best for her and her baby”.

While this conversation does cover some important issues, nevertheless, it is a distraction. The really important issue, the one which deserves to take up mom-blogger bandwidth, is breastfeeding inequality.

Are you aware that in the poor state of Louisiana (US) only 56% of mothers ever breastfeed, but in the relatively wealthy state of California, 93% do.

Did you know that only 38% of mothers living below the poverty threshold breastfeed at 6-months, while 68% of mothers in top-earning families do.

And finally, did you realize that only 29% of mothers who never marry breastfeed their babies until 6-months, whereas 60% of married women do.

This infographic by We The Parents visualizes the startling statistics being breastfeeding inequality:

The disparities are huge. In the US, there are almost 4 million mothers with a baby less than 12 months old. When you run the percentages against that figure you are looking at tens (even hundreds) of thousands of mothers who are not breastfeeding because they grew up in the ‘wrong’ area code.

Highlighting this disparity isn’t about shaming mothers; precisely the opposite. It’s about looking hard at the socioeconomic factors causing the problems.

Here are just a few reasons that less well-off mothers find it more difficult to reach optimal breastfeeding goals:

  • Less access to paid maternity leave
  • Lower paid jobs that are less likely to allow for pumping breaks
  • Inadequate maternity and lactation support in hospital
  • Less effective family and community support
  • A culture that doesn’t unconsciously treat breastfeeding as a desirable status symbol

Tackling these issues will be no mean feat. But mothers, let’s come together around a goal that we can all agree on: that all moms from all walks of life should have equal access to information (about the benefits of breastfeeding) and equal opportunity and support to do so.

Mamas, let’s do this!

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