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August 12, 2019

The Role of Equity in US States’ Breastfeeding Policies

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Pediatr. Published online August 12, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.2582

Breastfeeding provides a number of health benefits to women and infants. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life. In the United States, 25% of all women exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, whereas only 17% of black women meet this recommendation.1,2 In general, women of color are less likely to breastfeed and infants of color less likely to be breastfed,2 and therefore they are less likely to experience associated benefits. Many factors may influence the decision and ability to breastfeed. However, much of the breastfeeding research has focused on individual and interpersonal factors,3 thus putting the onus of overcoming barriers to breastfeeding on women. When seeking to understand racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in breastfeeding, there has been less of a focus on policy factors that influence women’s ability to breastfeed. These policy factors include those that directly affect where and when women can breastfeed (eg, laws that allow women to breastfeed in public), whether workplaces provide breastfeeding support, whether women have sufficient or paid maternity leave, and whether there are facilities and accommodations that are supportive of breastfeeding within child care and/or communities.

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