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Non-married mums are less likely to breastfeed

Non-married mums are less likely to breastfeed

by Nicole M. King | August 26, 2014

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The News Story - 22 candid photos that show how beautiful breastfeeding really is

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and news sources have brimmed with cheerful stories on the positive effects of breastfeeding.  In addition to providing baby with the best nutrition, breastfeeding cuts the risk of post-partum depression, helps reduce the risk of breast cancer, and has a host of other good health effects for both mom and baby.
 
Over at the Huffington Post, Caroline Bologna spotlights photographer and mother Leilani Rogers in her “Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project.”  “Inspired by her reluctance to nurse in public,” reports the story, Rogers is “seeking to normalize the sight of breastfeeding and show support for other nursing moms.”  Many other photographers have joined the project, which is now global.  Kayla Gonzales told the Huffington Post, “I do feel strongly that breastfeeding is the standard for infant nutrition, and we're slowly working toward breaking down the barriers that stop new moms from even trying.”
 
One of these “barriers”—though not one the Post or many other news sources talk about—is the lack of a husband.  Years of research indicate that married women are much, much more likely to breastfeed their children, and to breastfeed longer, than are both single and cohabiting women.  While it is encouraging to see so much public support for breastfeeding, a conversation that leaves out this crucial point will fail to effect broad-ranging change.

The New Research - Married moms, breastfed babies

Because mothers who breastfeed give their babies a host of immunological and developmental advantages, pediatricians in the United States and Europe have worked hard to promote the practice.  But they have been frustrated by how many mothers still do not breastfeed.  A prime reason that many mothers have not heeded the medical endorsement of breastfeeding stands out in a study recently completed by officials affiliated with the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and the National Health Service for Scotland, and that reason is the presence or absence of a wedding ring: compared to married peers, single and cohabiting mothers are decidedly less likely to breastfeed their infant children.
 
The authors of the new study launched their inquiry keenly aware that giving Scottish babies the “best possible start in life” means encouraging breastfeeding, “which gives the best source of nutrients for healthy infant growth and development.”  To identify the factors that make a mother most likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding, the Scottish researchers pored over maternal and infant health records for 731,595 infants born in Scotland between 1997 and 2009.  Among the nine factors the researchers isolate, marital status deserves particular attention.  Analysis of the data establishes that infants “having married parents” were significantly more likely to be breastfed than “infants of single or cohabiting parents.”  At the six-to-eight-week check-up, 36% of the infants born to married mothers in the study were being exclusively breastfed, compared to just 19% of the infants born to cohabiting mothers, and 9% of the infants born to single mothers.  The marital-status gap in breastfeeding is precisely the kind of finding the researchers hoped to reach in using a 12-year data set ideal for “monitoring of social and demographic trends”—such as “changes in family structure”—that are “key determinants of breastfeeding trends.”
 
The researchers believe that their study can “play a vital role in identifying and targeting scarce resources to vulnerable groups, informing policy, changing clinical practice and supporting local efforts to improve child health.”  But this study illuminates nothing so clearly as the vital role of wedlock in fostering infant wellbeing.
 
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America, Spring 2014, Vol. 28 Number 2. Study: Omotomilola Ajetunmobi et al., “Informing the ‘Early Years’ Agenda in Scotland: Understanding Infant Feeding Patterns Using Linked Datasets,” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 68.1 [2014]: 83-92.)

This article has been republished with permission from The Family in America, a publication of The Howard Center. The Howard Center is a MercatorNet partner site.

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