Is Breastfeeding Truly Free? The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding for Women

Phyllis L. F. Rippeyoung, Acadia University
Mary C. Noonan, University of Iowa

Research has clearly demonstrated that income and work status are two strong predictors of whether or not a mother breastfeeds her child: income has a positive effect and work status has a negative effect on the odds of a woman breastfeeding versus formula feeding her child. However, the effect of breastfeeding on women’s employment outcomes is largely unknown. Since breastfeeding is currently less compatible with work than formula feeding, women who breastfeed their children may be more likely to take an extended maternity leave, reduce their work hours after childbirth, or quit work entirely. These strategies will potentially lead to lower earnings in the short-term and may also affect long-term economic prospects by reducing mothers’ prospects for promotions or raises. Using growth modeling and fixed effects techniques, we use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to assess whether there are long-term differences in the earnings trajectories between breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers.

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Presented in Session 47: Gender, Labor Force and Earnings