Breastfeeding and Income Loss

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Victor1558

A study was recently conducted to determine why a large percentage of American women ignore Health Department recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of babies’ lives. The study, which included more than 1,300 mothers who had babies in years spanning 1980-1993, found that one of the major reasons some women don’t breastfeed is because they believe doing so would cost them too much in lost wages.

Nearly three quarters of new American mothers do breastfeed their babies, at least initially. However, only about 44% of women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their babies’ lives. Less than a quarter of women continue to breastfeed their babies for a full year, as is recommended.

Breastfeeding for any amount of time is beneficial to babies’ health. It has also been shown to have benefits to the mother’s health. Studies show that breastfeeding:

  • Protects (helps immunize) your baby from a number of illnesses.
  • Helps reduce your chances of contracting cancer, particularly breast cancer.
  • Protects your baby from developing allergic reactions.
  • Reduces stress for you and baby.
  • Reduces chances of postpartum depression.
  • Boosts baby’s intelligence.
  • Protects baby from obesity.
  • Lowers baby’s risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • Helps you and baby bond with one another.

Very few would argue against the benefits of breastfeeding. However, in a world where deciding what is best for baby has to be juggled with the need to function in the world we live in and pay our bills, continuing to breast feed for six months or a year can be tough…and expensive.

Women who choose to return to work (or who must return to work) during the first year of their baby’s life can still offer their babies many of the benefits of breastfeeding by expressing breast milk. Of course, this takes a solid commitments (and often, accommodation by employers).

Many women are hesitant to ask employers for the time they need to breastfeed or express milk for their babies. However, as information about the importance of breastfeeding becomes more common, most employers are willing to make reasonable accommodations to allow new mothers time and space for taking care of their babies’ needs.

Have you checked with your employer to see if they will make accommodations for you to breastfeed your baby or express breast milk? Why or why not?


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