A study of more than 1,300 new moms over a 13-year-period found that women who breastfed for six months or longer earn significantly less money than those who do not.
About the study
The findings, published in the American Sociological Review, lead the study’s authors Phyllis Rippeyoung and Mary Noonan to conclude that breastfeeding is not free, as many proponents of the practice argue it is.
Women who choose to breastfeed for longer than six months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians, face real economic consequences for up to five years afterward, they say.
What breastfeeding advocates are saying
Breastfeeding advocates say women are being shortchanged in the workplace. Kim Updegrove with Mother's Milk says women who work are forced to breastfeed less.
"And if she is not breastfeeding her child 100% of the time, then her child is less capable of fighting off things like colds and the flu virus."
Updegrove says that ends up costing the women and their employers in the long run because often times those mothers have to stay home and miss work to care for sick kids.
Updegrove says maternity leave is often too short and is not breastfeeding friendly.
"It's ironic that we make mothers go back to work so early because we are then actually penalizing them because they'll miss more work."
She says professional women with babies have it easier than women who hold blue collar jobs when it comes to child care.
"Executives have the freedom to say 'I intended to start my day at 8 a.m. but my daughter is having a very fussy morning and I am not going to make it in until 9 a.m.'"