Never Mind Breastfeeding in Public – What About at Work?

Never mind breastfeeding in public. The mere knowledge that a woman breastfeeds her children, at all, leads people to view her as less competent in the workplace and less good at math, according to a recent study.

In one of several experiments testing attitudes toward breastfeeding, 60 students were told they’d be forming general impressions of other people, based on a brief meeting and reading of a short profile. Each met a woman whose profile described her as a married transfer student and psychology major. During the course of the experiment, this woman–actually a confederate of the researchers– checked her voicemail and played out loud a friendly message that varied in one way: It expressed understanding that the woman wanted to push back a social event because she had to go home to 1) breastfeed her baby; 2) give a baby a bath (emphasizing her motherhood but not breastfeeding) ; 3) change into a strapless bra (emphasizing the sexuality of the breasts); or for an unexplained reason.

The students rated the “breastfeeding” woman lowest of the four on overall competence, workplace capabilities, math ability–and also whether they’d hire her, if they were in a position to do so. Read more about breastfeeding in the workplace.