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An Economic Take on Breastfeeding

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Here’s a great article from the Huffington Post, written by the Executive Editor of She says there’s a “milk gap” that we need to close with better family leave policies. Here’s an excerpt:

We’ve heard of the trade gap, wage gap, and gender gap. Now comes the “milk gap.”
It is the gap between the time a mother is able to feed her newborn baby breast milk and the twelve months that pediatricians recommend. Why twelve months? Because the health benefits of breastfeeding abound: babies have reduced chances of suffering from diabetes, leukemia, meningitis, obesity and a host of other illnesses. Yet 84 percent of mothers stop breastfeeding before their babies reach age one, in large part, because they have no choice: they need to return to paycheck jobs, many of which are incompatible with breastfeeding.
To become a more family-friendly country, we need to become more baby-friendly and help mothers close the milk gap.
Most babies have a milk deficit: they breastfeed for less than one year. Fortunate moms minimize the deficit by crafting extended paid leaves from work by taking what paid time off they have accrued all at once (for example, maternity leave plus sick days plus vacation days). Other mothers utilize on-site day care, which allows them to break from work to breastfeed. Still others bring their infants to work. Flexible schedules sometimes permit moms to work at home or part-time — thereby enabling them to nurse their babies while resuming wage work responsibilities. And some moms resort to breast pumps to allow others to feed their babies’ the precious mother’s milk….
Instead, what’s needed is for people who care about children and families to support public policies and workplace practices that help close the milk gap: paid family leave, flexible work arrangements (including time and space for pumping), convenient, quality child care, and on-ramps back into good jobs and careers for stay-at-home moms.