As if there wasn’t enough tension in the breast vs. bottle debate already in the U.S., the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin just published research showing that mothers who breastfeed are widely perceived as less competent than their counterparts, reports Miller-McCune. Say what?
The study, “Spoiled Milk: An Experimental Examination of Bias Against Mothers Who Breastfeed” included findings from three separate studies, all of which indicated a bias against breastfeeding moms, even though the CDC, WHO and the AAP consider breast milk the healthiest choice for infants. Even more shocking: men and women alike viewed breastfeeding women in the same negative way. Especially unfortunately, one of the studies found that breastfeeding can actually be a handicap for women applying for a job—and researchers suggested that it was not parenthood that made them less attractive job candidates, but instead the mental image of a breastfeeding woman’s breasts, as the same bias was not found against non-breastfeeding mothers.
Plus: The Breastfeeding Police
Researchers concluded that women are right to worry about others’ perceptions of them, should they choose to breastfeed, and suggested that health professionals educate expectant moms about sexism they might encounter, should they plan to nurse.
The ultimate solution to this conundrum? “More visible breastfeeding mothers should prompt people to wrestle with and debate the issues,” the researchers suggest. “With time, greater numbers of women who breastfeed translates to less prejudice.”
Plus: Public Breastfeeding: Finally, a Happy Story!