When Mother's Milk Goes Bad: The Influence of Location on Breastfeeding Mothers Perceived Levels of Intelligence
This study examined the influence of the location where a mother breastfeeds and the potential stigma associated with breastfeeding on perceptions of her intelligence. Despite public campaigns promoting the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and infant, breastfeeding rates have been slow to improve. Previous research has found that both men and women feel uncomfortable when a woman breastfeeds in public (Smith, 2011). In addition, many mothers are concerned with the potential for social repercussions from breastfeeding in public (Sheeska, 2001). This study investigated the effect of type of feeding and location on perceptions of maternal intelligence. Participants were randomly assigned to view one of four photographs depicting a mother either breastfeeding in a public or private setting, or the same woman bottle feeding in a public or private setting. Participants were then asked to rate her intelligence. Participants rated the woman who was breastfeeding in public as lower in intelligence. The results suggest that bias against breastfeeding mothers may be a contributing factor to the currently low rates of breastfeeding and demonstrate a need to create strategies that counteract social bias against women who breastfeed in order to increase breastfeeding rates and duration.