Is breast best? Or chosen by less competent women?: An examination of bias against breastfeeding mothers

Spoiled milk: An experimental examination of bias against mothers who breastfeed

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 

While breastfeeding babies has numerous health advantages to both mother and child, mothers who breastfeed may find that other people look down on them and do not want to work with them. This study found that mothers who breastfeed are viewed as less competent than other women, significantly less competent in general, in math and work specifically, and were less likely to be hired compared to others.



Drawing from the objectification literature, three experiments tested the hypothesis that breastfeeding mothers are the victims of bias. In Study 1, participants rated a woman who had breastfed as incompetent. Study 2 replicated these effects and determined that the bias was specific to conditions that sexualized the breast. In Study 3, participants interacted with a confederate in which attention was drawn to her as a mother, as a mother who breastfeeds, as a woman with sexualized breasts, or in a neutral condition. Results showed the breastfeeding confederate was rated significantly less competent in general, in math and work specifically, and was less likely to be hired compared to all other conditions, except for the sexualized breast condition. Importantly, the breastfeeding mother emphasis and the sexualized breast emphasis resulted in equally negative evaluations. Results suggest that although breastfeeding may be economical and healthy, the social cost is potentially great.


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Article details
Smith, J., Hawkinson, K., & Paull, K. (2011). Spoiled Milk: An Experimental Examination of Bias Against Mothers Who Breastfeed Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167211401629

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