By Julie Marsh
In addition to these federal initiatives, individual states have enacted legislation outlining the rights of breastfeeding mothers. Nearly 80% of US states' laws specify that women may breastfeed in any public or private location where they are otherwise allowed to be present.
Which states aren't in that 80%?
Interestingly, even though states like Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi do have laws outlining the rights of breastfeeding mothers, those three states rank at the bottom where it comes to breastfed infants.
Likewise, sociodemographic factors play a role in breastfeeding prevalence. Specifically, of the mothers surveyed in 2004, approximately 56% of those under 20 years old breastfed their newborns, while 78% of those over 30 years old breastfed. Of mothers who had at most a high school education, approximately 67% of them breastfed, whereas among mothers who were college graduates, more than 85% breastfed.
Also in 2004, 67% of mothers who received WIC breastfed their newborns, and that percentage dropped to 33% by the time the babies were six months old. Meanwhile, 82% of mothers who were ineligible for WIC breastfed their newborns, with the percentage dropping to 51% by six months.
Major urban areas such as Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh had percentages below that of their states as a whole. Detroit in particular illustrated an extreme difference, with 43% of Detroit mothers breastfeeding versus 63% of mothers across the state of Michigan.
It seems that in spite of the laws and the promotional campaigns, breastfeeding remains more prevalent among higher-income, college-educated mothers. And in spite of the laws and the promotional campaigns, public breastfeeding is viewed as objectionable even among the demographics in which it is more prevalent - to wit, the recent deletion of breastfeeding photos on personal Facebook accounts, photos which showed almost no breast exposure.
Whether it's the act of breastfeeding or the breast itself that is deemed unacceptable, such measures run contrary to the efforts of the CDC, HHS, and Ad Council to promote breastfeeding. While all babies can benefit from breast milk, urban mothers who are more likely to depend on government services can benefit as well - breastfeeding is less expensive than formula, and the health advantages attributed to breastfeeding can reduce medical expenses as well.
For more information about the Facebook debacle and how the blogging community is working together to change Facebook's position (you can participate too!), please visit the League of Maternal Justice website.
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