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Breast Feeding Hurts Moms' earnings, study Finds

Posted by on Apr. 28, 2012 at 12:40 PM
  • 89 Replies

Breast-feeding hurts moms' earnings, study finds

Along with a list of breast-feeding’s health benefits for mothers and children, pediatricians often tout an added bonus -- unlike formula, breast milk is free.

Not so fast, researchers say.  Breast-feeding comes with a cost to new moms that is often overlooked, according to a new study published in the American Sociological Review. The study looked at data from 1,313 first-time mothers in the U.S. who were in their late 20s or 30s when they gave birth.

Women’s incomes dropped precipitously when they choose to breast-feed for six months or longer -- and they remained low some five years after the babies were born, says the study’s lead author, Phyllis L.F. Rippeyoung, an assistant professor of sociology and coordinator of women’s and gender studies at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. 

Rippeyoung’s interest in the hidden costs of breast-feeding was sparked by personal experience. When she became a mom, she was flooded with information about the benefits of breast-feeding -- including the suggestion that it would save her money.

 â€śI thought that it was weird that they were saying it was free,” Rippeyoung remembers. “I was a grad student at the time driving back and forth between teaching and classes, and my milk was drying up since I couldn’t drive and pump at the same time. It was a very difficult thing, but I had to stop breast-feeding. If I’d continued I couldn’t have worked at the same time.”

The data for the new study came from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which included information about the moms’ jobs and incomes, as well as stats on their family life, including the decision to give their babies formula or to breast-feed for a short duration (less than six months) or a long duration (six months or more).

The researchers found that on average women who breast-fed their babies for six months or longer experienced a dramatic drop in income.  Five years after the birth of their babies, the women were still making about $5,000 per year less than they had before the birth of their children.

One factor that explained much of the drop in income was a reduction in hours -- and this was true even though most of the women in the long-duration group were managers or professionals and said they worked because they liked to.

Rippeyoung doesn’t think that breast-feeding needs to come at such a cost -- and she isn’t advocating that women give it up.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” she said. “If there were more ways in which women could combine breast-feeding with working you’d see less of this earnings decline."

One thing that could help is if more companies offered on-site day care and allowed women time to visit their babies during working hours, she said.

“If there’s going to be a push for women to breast-feed then we need to take into account all of the costs,” Rippeyoung said. “And the responsibility for raising the children shouldn’t be solely borne by women.”

by on Apr. 28, 2012 at 12:40 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM
6 moms liked this

I am always astounded by parents and women who don't consider things like this.

I think more 'lactivists' (thanks momniscient) need to read this.

JoshRachelsMAMA
by JRM on Apr. 28, 2012 at 1:12 PM
NILIF
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stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Apr. 28, 2012 at 1:15 PM

When I went back to work when my oldest was 4 months old I was able to take her with me, and I really aprreciated it.  However the job I had (and have again, I did take a year off, though) still doesn't pay well and offers no beneits.  I make my own benefits by picking a schedule that works for my daycare. 

ButterMeUp
by Silver Member on Apr. 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM
1 mom liked this

Because of the breaks I would assume. As an employer I be damned if I pay anyone to nurse unless its going to my child. Now if you can continue to do your job, I would be more than happy to pay the set wage. I would also never shell  out thousands for a day care for another's child. 

Also, as for the 5 year set back. I think that may be do to missed opportunities for promotion. Choosing promotions is psychological and strategic. If you as an employer hold a slight grudge to a mom for the breaks, that might cause you to over look them. Thats wrong, but it is easy to do. 

Funny Pictures - Cat Gifs

Nighttiger
by Bronze Member on Apr. 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM
1 mom liked this

I think I must be the exception to this rule. I breast fed for 18 months, pumping at work for 14 of those month. My ds is now 28 months.  In the last 32 months, my pay has increased by 10% and my boss is trying to get me promoted through corporate.  

I think the statistics come from 2 places 1) mothers who are in jobs that are not professional jobs and 2) mothers who are in highly professional jobs that chose to cut their hours due to having the kid.

GotSomeKids
by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 12:01 AM

I was working when I had my son and I was on salary.  So, it didn't really matter.  I just pumped on my breaks and during lunch.

mommajen32
by Platinum Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 12:07 AM
5 moms liked this

How many of those moms chose to stay home with their babies and thus a natural loss of income? Is that really a breastfeeding issue or a "having a baby" issue? Most moms in professional jobs are salaried not hourly. Most people in hourly jobs don't have the opportunity to just drop hours to pump. I think this is bogus. 

I nursed for 18 mos. I chose to stay at home w/him so they'd count me in the statistic. I've gone back to work part-time which is significantly less money, but that would happen breastfeeding or bottle feeding. When I have this little one she/he will be with me at work, which is a blessing - otherwise I would pump. 

GotSomeKids
by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 1:04 AM
1 mom liked this

I know a lot of owners cannot afford to build a daycare (or would be appropriate in certain types of facilities), especially small business owners.  However, my time in the Army and my studies in business have led me to believe that if the facility is close by, the parent seemed happier, more secure with their child being in daycare, and became more productive.

Did a study of a small law firm one year.  He only had about 15 employees, but provided an area inside the building for daycare.  While, his employees still paid for the daycare providers, the fact that he provided a space in the same building for his parents netted a 35% increase in productivity/profits compared to similar offices in the city, compared to when he didn't have a provider on the premises.

Quoting ButterMeUp:

Because of the breaks I would assume. As an employer I be damned if I pay anyone to nurse unless its going to my child. Now if you can continue to do your job, I would be more than happy to pay the set wage. I would also never shell  out thousands for a day care for another's child. 

Also, as for the 5 year set back. I think that may be do to missed opportunities for promotion. Choosing promotions is psychological and strategic. If you as an employer hold a slight grudge to a mom for the breaks, that might cause you to over look them. Thats wrong, but it is easy to do. 


LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Apr. 29, 2012 at 1:05 AM

So?

Compared to how much formula costs? 

GotSomeKids
by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 1:05 AM

You know, those are some very, very valid points.  It would be interesting to see any other studies on it.

Quoting mommajen32:

How many of those moms chose to stay home with their babies and thus a natural loss of income? Is that really a breastfeeding issue or a "having a baby" issue? Most moms in professional jobs are salaried not hourly. Most people in hourly jobs don't have the opportunity to just drop hours to pump. I think this is bogus. 

I nursed for 18 mos. I chose to stay at home w/him so they'd count me in the statistic. I've gone back to work part-time which is significantly less money, but that would happen breastfeeding or bottle feeding. When I have this little one she/he will be with me at work, which is a blessing - otherwise I would pump. 


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