Breastfeeding might be better for babies, but it might be murder on Mom's career.
New research from Montana State University, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggest people hold lower opinions of women who breastfeed.
The researchers conducted three experiments. In one, subjects rated actress Brooke Shields as less competent - but warmer and friendlier - when given biographical information saying she breastfed, rather than bottle-fed, her children.
Another test showed women were judged less competent and not as capable in the workplace after being shown in a magazine advertisement endorsing a breast cream to treat nipples after breastfeeding.
The competence scores for women in the ad were higher when the breast cream was described as a product to "refresh nipples before intimacy" or to treat nipples chafed by jogging.
The third experiment put subjects in a situation where they overheard a woman's voice-mail messages. Some of the messages addressed a situation in which the recipient would go home to breastfeed her baby. Others mentioned the woman going home to give her baby a bath. In another manipulation, meant to sexualize the breast, the message talked about the woman going home to put on a strapless bra. A fourth message was considered neutral.
In the cases where the messages addressed breastfeeding, the woman involved was ranked more negatively.
Significantly, the researchers found no appreciable difference in the way males and females responded in the experiments. All of the subjects were childless.
Breastfeeding rates are higher in Canada than the U.S., but one expert said it's possible a similar bias exists in Canada.
"A lot of the gender research and stereotypes don't show many differences between Canada and the U.S.," said Jennifer Berdahl, a psychology professor with the University of Toronto.
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