If you're thinking of breastfeeding your baby, be warned: People will think you're stupid. That's right, a recently published report highlighted not one, but three studies that found people think of women who breastfeed as less competent than "otherwise identical women."
Are you shaking with fury? I'm shocked. Perhaps I shouldn't be, but I am. I knew there were plenty of people out there who get uncomfortable around women nursing (boobs, omg!); even Facebook can't handle fake boobs. BUT I still thought they were at least cool with it if done incognito. Guess not.
According to Miller-McCune, in one study, participants were given two descriptions of actress Brooke Shields -- one included "bottle-feeding," and the other included "breastfeeding." Those who read she was breastfeeding found her "significantly more warm and friendly compared to the bottle-feeding mother, but significantly less competent in general, and less competent in math specifically,”
Hear that breastfeeders? You may be warm and friendly, but you suck at math. It wasn't just men either. They found men AND women held these prejudices against breastfeeding women. So much for supporting our sisters. Oh, and to add to the insult, the study found participants would be least likely to give a job to a breastfeeding woman. Not so surprised by that one, but still maddening to see it confirmed again.
What a slap in the face for all of us who try so hard to do the right thing for our babies. Breastfeeding can be hard, really hard. But those who choose to do so fight through the bleeding cracked nipples, the mastitis, and the glares of strangers because we are smart enough to know it's good for our babies. Hell, women who breastfeed are the MOST competent people I know. When I had to quit breastfeeding my children for various reasons, that's when I felt the least competent.
No wonder the rate of American women breastfeeding is "stagnant and low," according to the CDC. While it shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks, it's infuriating that they do think like this. All this discrimination against breastfeeders is beyond disturbing -- for the health of the country really.
So what are women to do? Keep breastfeeding! Jessi Smith, who led the research, told Miller-McCune:
More visible breastfeeding mothers should prompt people to wrestle with and debate the issues. With time, greater numbers of women who breastfeed translates to less prejudice.
Let's hope so.
Have you ever felt like people think you're incompetent for breastfeeding? Are you surprised that so many people hold this belief?
Image via sdminor81/Flickr