Can You Put a Price on Breastfeeding?

What is breastfeeding worth to you?

For me, it was everything. It wasn’t always easy, but it was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done as a mom. To nourish my children, to share that closeness, to know the benefits for them and for myself – it all felt right.

Besides a few funny comments from my dad and having an electrician almost walk in on me pumping, nothing really got in my way. But when I read about moms who feel forced to stop nursing when they go back to work, or others who are scorned for breastfeeding in public, it breaks my heart. And when I read this article about “new” data published in the American Sociological Review, I lost my cool.

Some of my nicer thoughts included:

Can you seriously put a price on breastfeeding? Women who breastfeed on a long-term basis “pay” for it more than other moms? You’re telling me I should have thought twice before I pumped at work or took my lunchhour to nurse my children?

Things just weren’t adding up. It was time to dig deeper and this news release from the American Sociological Society provided more details. Data for the “new” study was actually taken between 1980 and 1993. It included only 1,313 first-time moms in their 20s or 30s. Even one of the study’s coauthors acknowledged how dated the information was.

“There are some longitudinal datasets that look at breastfeeding and parenting, but we needed longitudinal data that included information on both breastfeeding and women’s work behaviors,” Phyllis L. F. Rippeyoung, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Canada’s Acadia University, said. “Very recent data with that type of information proved difficult to come by. We hope this study will encourage people to collect newer data looking at breastfeeding and work behaviors, so that we can determine whether the trends we see from mothers who gave birth in the 1980s and early 90s still hold true today. However, there is little to make us believe the trends would be very different.”

And when our mainstream media is more concerned about writing eye-catching headlines than they are about telling the whole story, I can see why she would assume this. But, honestly, I don’t believe it.

Even in the five years since my son was born, I’ve seen significant progress in awareness and accessibility for breastfeeding moms.

  • Nursing-related items weren’t always included on a baby registry, but moms are now proudly registering for their “Breast Friend,” or a pump.
  • I had to reach out for help when I was learning to breastfeed my first, but a lactation specialist checked in each day at the hospital when my second child was born.
  • Whether you’re out shopping or at a baseball game, the comfort level for nursing in public slowly seems to be growing.
  • At one company I was pumping in a storage room behind a shower curtain, but I now work for a company with private, welcoming pumping rooms. And now, with important federal legislation like this, even more doors are opening for nursing moms. We are not required to pay a price!

With all the assumptions and misinformation out there, it’s easy to see why some can think breastfeeding is just not worthwhile. But with all we know and all we have, let’s get out there and show the world just how worthwhile it is.

Do you see things improving? What were ways people supported you or how do you support other breastfeeding moms?

Kristen is the proud mom of two, Will (5) and Joy (almost 2), both breastfed. She’s happy to write for work and fun, but being with her family (and the craziness that ensues) is what really makes her smile.


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

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