Breastfeeding Inequality: Not all Mothers get an Equal Chance
The World Health Organization points out that breastfeeding provides balanced nutrition for infants, helps mother-child bonding, and is linked to psychomotor and social development. Any mother who has ever breastfed their child will readily agree that these benefits are very real and vitally important. Unfortunately, many mothers who attempt exclusive breastfeeding will attest to the difficulties they encounter in a busy, modern world where many families live paycheck to paycheck.
And here’s the thing:
The knowledge and practical support, invaluable to making a success of it, are not equally available to all mothers.
Few medical professionals or parents would disagree with the health benefits of nursing from the breast, yet there is an astonishing disparity between the rates of breastfeeding for well-off vs less well-off moms. The stark reality is that socioeconomic forces drastically affect breastfeeding rates.
Were you aware that only 38% of mothers living below the poverty level will breastfeed for six months. This is in stark contrast to moms coming from wealthier families, 68% of whom will breastfeed for six months. (Source)
We The Parents has created this infographic that clearly illustrates an important but not often discussed point; people from more affluent areas and who have financial security are more likely to breastfeed for the recommended period than their less fortunate peers.
Breastfeeding inequality needs to end. It is disingenuous to live in a world that routinely touts the benefits of breastfeeding while not providing equal opportunities for mothers to do so.
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
Everyone in society, whether they are a mother or not, needs to join forces. It is time to insist that all mothers have access to lactation friendly workplaces. To insist that all mothers are entitled to help when breastfeeding becomes difficult. To insist that all babies be afforded an equal right to health.
Let’s make breastfeeding a way of life, not a privilege.
Written by Neve Spicer, Founder & Director of WeTheParents.org.
Neve is a breastfeeding advocate, proud mother of two, and an online entrepreneur. She writes at We The Parents where she aims to bring out the humor in parenting while empowering new parents to do it their way. You can catch her on Twitter and Facebook.