Why Are Breastfeeding Mothers Viewed Poorly?

According to the health experts, breastfeeding is one of the best things a woman can do for her children. However, breastfeeding mothers are looked down upon by others. Why is there still a social hurdle for breastfeeding mothers to cross?

Researchers from Montana State University conducted the study on how breastfeeding mothers are viewed. The results were published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. In their study, mothers who chose to breastfeed were seen in a more negative light than mothers who chose to bottle feed their children.

The study was a set of three experiments where women were associated with breastfeeding. The women were then judged by others to their competence and capabilities in the workplace. When the women were associated with breastfeeding, they were rated lower than when they were not. This suggests that there is still a social hurdle for breastfeeding mothers to overcome.

According to the researchers, women were rated lower when she was seen as an “object” or “tool” for someone else, including a child. Though women in the study who were cast in a sexual nature also scored low, they were still not seen as diminished as the breastfeeding mothers. Perhaps there is a cultural issue for women and their bodies, one where breastfeeding seems to come out on bottom.

Jennifer Berdahl, a psychology professor with the University of Toronto, feels that the issue is because breastfeeding women are seen as not in control of their bodies. This image could decrease how competent they are seen by others.

“The (study’s) authors do talk about the women who are sexualized as having some kind of agency or control or competence; they might be using that sexualization to achieve some goal,” she said. “Whereas a woman who is breastfeeding might just be a cow; maybe not in control of the situation or the direction and just a tool for a baby.”

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Summer is a mom of three, living life in the slow lane along historic Route 66. She writes, homeschools, gardens, and is still trying to learn how to knit.

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