The costs of breastfeeding

When I started writing my final dissertation chapter, I chose to examine two investments in children–breastfeeding and taking children to the doctor–which I assumed to have different cost structures. The idea was that breastfeeding would be a time-intensive investment, while taking children to the doctor would be a monetarily intensive investment.

Further research showed that this dichotomy was clearly false. In order to breastfeed, one has to consume more calories, sleep less, and generally be available more. While I generally only cite the additional caloric cost in my presentation, new research highlights other costs of breastfeeding, which manifest themselves in wage penalties that accrue over time. From the Motherlode blog at the NYT:

Now researchers have zeroed in on an economic cost of following the pediatrician’s advice: women who breast-feed for six months or more suffer more severe and more prolonged earnings losses than mothers who breastfeed for a shorter amount of time, or not at all,” writes Tom Jacobs for Miller-McCune.

While mothers may not have to physically outlay cash in order to breastfeed, there are definitely significant costs associated with it. If the consensus is that breastfeeding is a desirable and healthy behavior, we have to make policies to support it.

Related (from Irrational Tonics and elsewhere):

  1. Breastfeeding, formula, and perception
  2. Support for breastfeeding by Tangerine and Cinnamon
  3. My quick response to Tangerine and Cinnamon post above
  4. My paper on Health Investments in Children: healthinvestFF_071911
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Author: ekfletch

I am an independent researcher on issues of gender, labor, violence, education, and children.

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