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The Politics of Breastfeeding: Assessing Risk, Dividing Labor

Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Impact Factor: 0.46). 12/2000; 25(2). DOI: 10.1086/495446
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    • "Professionals assisting women after childbirth should be aware of the state of mind of women dealing with conflicting expectations, pressures, and needs (Cooke et al., 2007;Scavenius et al., 2007;Schmied et al., 2011). In the current reality, in which women who do not breastfeed are frequently perceived by professionals and the public alike as having failed in their primary maternal role (Law, 2000;Ryan et al., 2010;Schmidt, 2008), it is important to understand the heavy price these mothers pay, and seek ways to minimize them. "
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    ABSTRACT: Rationale: In the current social climate, breastfeeding is regarded as the "gold standard" of babies' nutrition and optimal mothering. It is not surprising, therefore, that the vast majority of contemporary women begin breastfeeding after they give birth. Objective: This paper presents two separate quantitative studies conducted in Israel which examined breastfeeding motivation and its association with maternal well-being as derived from Self-Determination Theory (SDT). In Study I, a new breastfeeding motivation scale reflecting the various SDT-informed motivations was developed. Study II sought to validate the structure of the scale and to examine the hypotheses derived from SDT. Methods: In Study I, which took place in 2007, 130 mothers of at least one child under the age of eight years old filled out the Breastfeeding Motivation Scale. In Study II, which took place during the years 2008-2010, a different sample of 236 women were followed at three different time points: during the third trimester of pregnancy, at eight weeks postnatal, and at five months postnatal. The participants completed the Breastfeeding Motivation Scale and maternal well-being, maternal self-efficacy and maternal attachment questionnaires. Results: The findings supported the structure of the Breastfeeding Motivation Scale according to SDT. As predicted, autonomous motivation was positively correlated with maternal well-being and self-efficacy, while controlled motivations were positively associated with distress and inversely correlated with self-efficacy. Anxious attachment predicted both controlled and autonomous breastfeeding motivations. Discussion: The findings support the validity of the SDT for breastfeeding motivations, and highlight the role of these motivations as differentiating between positive and negative subjective well-being, among breastfeeding women.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Social Science [?] Medicine
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    • "Blum's earlier (1999) study of infant feeding in the United States found that poverty conditions complicated breastfeeding because it caused physical difficulties for undernourished mothers and had hidden economic costs. Blum and Vanderwater (1993) and Law (2000) have suggested that the option of prolonged breastfeeding tends to be limited to middle class women whose partners are breadwinners. Maher argues that regardless of where one lives in the world, " political and economic insecurity, ill health and overwork of mothers, gender inequality and the dangerous unhygienic environment that goes with sheer poverty " adversely affect the success of breastfeeding (Maher 1992b: 153). "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores the framing of public policy related to infant food insecurity in Canada by examining multiple levels and jurisdictions where infant feeding and food security policy merge. It identifies that both policy areas position breastfeeding as the solution to infant food insecurity, primarily isolating policy within health domains. Overall, this paper provides a critique of policy in relation to what we know about the challenges of maintaining breastfeeding as the sole nutrition strategies for infants and the barriers of access to alternative food for infants within the context of low-income circumstances in high-income countries such as Canada. It argues that infant food insecurity is a matter that requires better conceptualization and broader policy responses beyond health policy aimed at shaping infant feeding practice. An informed merging of infant feeding and food security policy could provide the framework for policy development to address the structural relations that make breastfeeding unsustainable, particularly for low-income women, as well food insecurity outcomes that stem from not breastfeeding in low-income circumstances.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Food Culture and Society An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research
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    • "Prior literature on breastfeeding shows that (1) women find it difficult to breastfeed while engaging in paid work (Kimbro 2006; Law 2000; Reynolds 2005; Roe et al. 1999); (2) women feel pressure to breastfeed (Schmied and Lupton 2001; Taylor and Wallace 2010; Wolf 2007); and (3) many women who face work-family conflicts opt out of work when they have the financial ability to do so (Stone 2007). Based on this literature, we hypothesize that mothers who breastfeed will have lower earnings in the short-term and potentially in the long-term, because they will be more likely to reduce their work hours or quit work entirely to accommodate the demands of breastfeeding. "
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    ABSTRACT: Based on studies showing health advantages for breastfeeding mothers and their infants, pediatricians and other breastfeeding advocates encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of their infants’ lives, arguing that breast milk is best for infants, families, and society, and it is cost free. Few empirical studies, however, document how the decision to breastfeed instead of formula-feed is associated with women’s post-birth earnings. This is an important omission, given that the majority of women today work for pay, and many work in job environments incompatible with breastfeeding. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, our results show that mothers who breastfeed for six months or longer suffer more severe and more prolonged earnings losses than do mothers who breastfeed for shorter durations or not at all. The larger post-birth drop in earnings for long-duration breastfeeders is due to a larger reduction in labor supply. We discuss the implications of these findings for gender equality at home and at work.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · American Sociological Review
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