Sunday, June 20, 2010

Men's Attitudes Toward Breastfeeding

Happy Father's Day! I recently read about a study published in the Maternal & Child Health Journal about men's attitudes toward breastfeeding. The study used the Texas sample of the 2007 Behavior Risk Surveillance System to examine whether men's attitudes toward breastfeeding would vary by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education level.

Some of the study findings weren't very surprising. For example, Spanish-speaking Hispanic men were found to be the most likely to agree that breastfeeding interfered with having a social life for mothers, yet they were also more likely to view images of public breastfeeding as acceptable. In addition, men born in the US were less likely to think employers should accommodate nursing mothers than foreign-born men.

I was surprised to find just how supportive of breastfeeding the men in the study seemed to be. So what did the study reveal? Eighty-four percent of men disagreed or strongly disagreed that mothers should only breastfeed in their homes and 80% disagreed or strongly disagreed that a mother cannot breastfeed and work outside of the home. Only 21% of men felt embarrassed by a woman they didn't know nursing in front of them. Some of the results seemed to be split down the middle, with 48% of men agreeing or strongly agreeing that it was appropriate to show a mom breastfeeding on the cover of a magazine. Similarly, 46% agreed or strongly agreed that it was appropriate to show a mom breastfeeding on a TV show. The men most in favor of breastfeeding in the media? Spanish-speaking Hispanic men.

The other good news included that 75% of the men believed employers should make the necessary accommodations for nursing mothers, including flexible schedules and a private place to nurse or express milk.  Positive attitudes towards breastfeeding and images of breastfeeding were more likely to be found in men under the age of 30, men who were college educated and men who were Spanish-speaking. This makes sense when we think about who has one of the highest rates of breastfeeding in this country: Hispanic women!

Since we all know how influential fathers can be when it comes to whether or not women breastfeed, it's great to see that there seems to be a lot of men who support nursing in public, breastfeeding imagery and continuing to breastfeed while working outside of the home. Let's give some extra props to the dads this year who support their wives, girlfriends and baby mamas to breastfeed.

Is the man in your life supportive? Give him a shout out in the comments!

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